Florida’s 46th Governor Pledges Sweeping Water Policy Reform
Newly elected DeSantis introduces initiatives to clean up Florida’s mismanaged waterways. A green algae task force and Everglades reservoir top the list.
On January 8, 2019, 40-year-old Ron DeSantis took office as the youngest United States governor currently serving. Just two days later, he released his proposal to clean up Florida’s waterways, allocating $2.5 billion to Everglades restoration. Action items included the green algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee and toxic spills into coastal waterways.
“The people of Florida wanted to see action, and this was action that was requested regardless of your party,” said DeSantis, a vocal proponent of bipartisanship within the state legislature. “This is something that can unite all Floridians.”
DeSantis’s executive order would increase water monitoring throughout Florida, establishing a task force to address green algae, ban fracking, and clean up septic tanks. He also ordered the accelerated construction of a 17,000-acre reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The Florida governor intends to work with the White House and Army Corps of Engineers to limit toxic discharges from the lake, with the eventual goal of “no discharges.” In line with his proactive platform for reform, he will appoint a chief science officer to anticipate future environmental issues.
Former governor Rick Scott had infamously slashed water-management budgets, which were blamed for the unsightly, foul-smelling algal blooms covering most of Lake Okeechobee and red tide that killed fish, birds, sea turtles and manatees along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility claimed in a recent report that environmental enforcement under Scott’s administration was at its lowest in three decades. The South Florida Water Management District has been accused of kowtowing to the interests of “Big Agriculture” sugar farmers at the expense of the environment, resulting in increased toxic run-off and less available land for the Everglades reservoir.
Naturally, these events have had an effect on the Florida-based members of Team Oceanmax. Says technical and sales consultant Mark Billingsley, “Last year was a tough year for some of our yards. The water was so poor that many yards had fewer boats in for bottom jobs. People did not want run their boats through this very toxic water and have the water pumping through their intakes.”
Oceanmax national sales director James Maitland says that the canal where he keeps his boat had more algae this year than he’s ever seen.
“With the waterways being so damaged by algae blooms, boating and businesses on the water can’t operate. It affects all of our friends, our customers and our partners. It has even started to make national news, which is really important to get the kind of nationwide exposure so that people start listening for the need to find some solutions, appropriate some funds. We need some positive change. It shouldn’t have taken this long, but it’s good that it’s under way. That’s what we need more of: politicians who do what they say they will and look to support the marine industry.”