Friday, February 8, 2019

Governor DeSantis: Stop the SFWMD Motion to Vacate Everglades Consent Decree


For Immediate Release
February 7, 2019
Contact:  Cris Costello, cris.costello@sierraclub.org, 941-914-0421

Conservation Groups Urge Governor DeSantis to Stop
SFWMD Motion to Vacate Everglades Consent Decree

Tallahassee – Today environmental organizations from around the state sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis to urge him to direct the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to withdraw its motion to vacate the consent decree that has been the engine that has driven clean water protections for Everglades National Park for three decades:
February 7, 2019

The Honorable Ron DeSantis
The Florida Capitol 
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Governor DeSantis:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we appreciate the strong commitments made within your first month as Governor on the importance of advancing Everglades restoration and solving Florida’s ongoing water crisis. We stand ready to work with your Administration to achieve our shared goals for restoring the Everglades and improving water quality across the state. 

In keeping with these strong commitments, we urge you to direct the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to withdraw its motion to vacate the consent decree that has been the engine driving water protections for Everglades National Park for three decades. 

Originally filed in 1988 by the United States and immediately joined by several major environmental organizations, the case sought to stop pollution of the Everglades, including the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park. Drainage pumps operated by SFWMD were pumping massive quantities of fertilizer-laden runoff from agricultural fields into the Everglades. After extensive settlement negotiations, a settlement agreement was reached by the parties in 1991 and then amended in 1995. Under the Amended consent decree, regulatory measures to reduce fertilizer runoff and the construction of artificial marshes – “Stormwater Treatment Areas” – were supposed to bring a halt to fertilizer pollution of the Everglades by the end of 2006. That deadline was not met and over the past dozen years, the sugar industry has made repeated efforts in the Legislature, in court, and in lobbying the District and the Governor’s Office to lift the requirements of the consent decree. To date, those efforts have been turned back by the federal court because of opposition from              the Justice Department under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, and opposition from the Miccosukee Tribe, the environmental organizations that are parties to the case, and the wider Everglades restoration advocacy community.  

On Thursday, November 8, 2018 – two days after you were elected to office – the SFWMD Governing Board appointed by Governor Rick Scott, which you have recently asked to resign, voted to petition Judge Moreno to vacate the consent decree. They did so with a clear understanding of the significant public opposition such an action would bring and without offering you the time to be briefed on the issue. 

Vacating the consent decree represents a tremendous threat to Everglades National Park, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and Florida Bay.

Since taking office, you have been decisive in your commitment to bringing a “fresh start” to the SFWMD. We believe that a Governing Board with different leadership and priorities would agree that vacating the consent decree is a disservice to Florida’s public. As such, we urge you to work with your new appointees to withdraw the motion to vacate the consent decree. 

Sincerely,

Alex Gillen
Policy Director
Bullsugar Alliance

John Cassani
Calusa Waterkeeper

Jaclyn Lopez
Florida Director
Center for Biological Diversity

Margaret R. Stewart
Director
Center for Earth Jurisprudence

Michael Baldwin
President
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society

Aliki Moncrief
Executive Director
Florida Conservation Voters

Jim Gross
Executive Director
Florida Defenders of the Environment

Michael Chenoweth
President 
Florida Division of the Izaak Walton League of America

Preston T. Robertson
President & CEO
Florida Wildlife Federation        

Elinor Williams
President
Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge 

Alan Farago
Conservation Chair
Friends of the Everglades 

Robert Knight
Director
Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

Reinaldo Diaz J.D.
President
Lake Worth Waterkeeper

Tom Bausch
Board of Directors
Martin County Conservation Alliance

Mark Ferrulo
Executive Director
Progress Florida

Diana Umpierre
Organizing Representative
Sierra Club


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