(By Kim Ryan) Friends of the Everglades is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s Everglades and its interconnected ecosystems. One of their priorities is clean water. They address that issue, in part, by educating the community and other stakeholders through their monthly zoom meetings titled “Clean Water Conversations.”
On Wednesday, July 27th, FOE Executive Director Eve Samples was joined by environmental policy experts; Matanzas Riverkeeper Jen Lomberk, 1000 Friends of Florida’s Outreach Director Haley Busch and Friends of the Everglades’ Policy Director Gil Smart. They discussed the lack of follow-through, and the work that remains to protect Florida from toxic blue-green algae.
Many will remember that viscous, neon green slime that blanketed many waterways in our area in 2018 costing the county over $2 million to clean up. In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis created Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force which consists of 5 experts including scientists and scholars. One of those experts is Dr. Michael Parsons, a professor at FGCU who appeared on Beach Talk Radio in September of 2018 to discuss such water issues.
In October of 2019 the task force finalized their initial “consensus document.” Besides listing recommendations as to how the state could restore Florida water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms, Jen Lomberk explained, “this document acknowledges that there are a lot of issues and areas where our water quality regulatory system is failing.”
During the conversation, the group expressed their disappointment that most of the recommendations have not been fully implemented. According to Haley Busch, only about 25% of all recommendations have been implemented despite all the money the Governor has allocated for water quality. She went on to say most of the recommendations implemented are regarding studying and monitoring but “not addressing the source of the pollution.”
Jen Lomberk pointed out that “a consensus document isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if it isn’t influencing policy.” She explained that the legislature has failed to pass bills like ones aimed at BMAP’s (Basin Management Actions Plans). Those BMAP’s outline strategies and projects to restore a water body and there’s a need for them to be adjusted to deal with the significant population growth in Florida.
Eve Samples referred to the Clean Waterways Act SB 712 and put up a slide which showed how many of the task forces objectives were not achieved through that legislation. Lomberk stated, “It paid lip service to the issues without making any tangible changes.”
Gil Smart agreed there’s a disconnect between recommendations and implementations. He went on to say, “there is no appetite in the legislature to pursue this, It will take another crisis, we know it’s going to happen again.”
What can be done? Samples encouraged those listening to talk with other stakeholders and their representatives about the unfinished business of the task force. She extended an offer to work with those interested stating, “there is sensible legislation that could be filed and we would be happy to work with you. We will be watching the next legislative session and pushing for the embracing of the blue green algae task force recommendations.”
To view this one hour video check them out on Facebook.
To learn more about the Blue Green Algae Task Force CLICK HERE.