I have the honor of serving as your Governing Board Chairman at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), one of the largest water management agencies in the world. This is all at a time when we are charting an exciting future for the ecosystem and the 8.7 million residents of South Florida the District serves.
You probably recall that less than 48 hours after Governor DeSantis took office, he signed his Achieve More Now For Florida’s Environment Executive Order and set a bold agenda to protect Florida’s natural resources. At SFWMD, this Executive Order prioritizes protecting the people, the environment and the water resources of South Florida. I assure you that the entire Governing Board as well as our staff are all dedicated to this mission.
Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature authored and passed a state budget with unprecedented funding for our environment, including $625 million to restore America’s Everglades. This state investment bolsters what is already the biggest environmental restoration effort in history. Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Rooney among others, our federal partners are stepping up by funding their share of important projects such as the raising of the Tamiami Trail, which will allow much needed freshwater to flow south through Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
In short, after a sobering wakeup call last summer, the momentum is strong. My priority, and the priority of the SFWMD Governing Board, is to use this new energy and the expertise and dedication of our staff to remove and overcome obstacles that might slow down crucial environmental restoration projects and to accelerate their completion. The people of South Florida deserve a restored Everglades, so I will do everything in my power to follow our Governor’s lead and provide it to them as soon as possible. One example of this is the speed with which the District began designing and preparing the site that will become the Stormwater Treatment Area A-2–a major component of the crucial Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir project.
You will also notice us working more closely with our partners like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and even our local partners such as my hometown city of Sanibel, to reduce the discharge of harmful nutrients into the Caloosahatchee
River and Estuary. Although there is tremendous attention given to SFWMD’s infrastructure projects, my priorities are not just projects, but also how we do business as public servants.
Governor DeSantis instructed all government agencies in Florida to be as open, transparent, and
engaging as possible and at SFWMD we are striving to hit that mark. My priority, and that of all of our
Board members, is to not just follow the letter of the law when it comes to open records and transparency, but to fulfill the spirit of truly open government and search for innovative ways to be more open and engaging. We have done this through new workshops, garnering hundreds of public comments to establish our strategic priorities, using innovative ideas to reach more citizens such as the online Lunch and Learn workshops, launching a webpage where the public can track progress on key restoration projects, and new educational videos on issues like flood control and Everglades restoration.
In short, there’s incredible momentum at your South Florida Water Management District to advance key restoration projects and engage the public. I’m humbled to lead the charge as the chair, and I invite you to share your thoughts and comments and feedback with us at any time.