First Florida Water Policy Summit to gather local experts focused on water regulation, legislation

January 18, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:
With newly elected officials now sworn in, representatives from Captains for Clean Water, the Conservancy of SWFL, the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), the Center for Biological Diversity, Everglades Wetlands Research Park and Calusa Waterkeeper assemble for a summit to lay out actionable policy intended to cure the ills besetting our waterways.
Florida is suffering from a wholesale water quality crisis. Floridians have witnessed historic marine mortality events; citizens are suffering respiratory illness; businesses have lost revenue; some have shuttered; summer employees found themselves on breadlines for the first time; housing values have declined; it is dangerous to swim or fish in our waterways; our very way of life is at risk. There are promising indications coming from the Governor’s office, but the public still suffers from a lack of information on the causes of and cures for Florida’s water quality problems.
On Monday January 21, our panel of experts will deliver actionable policy aimed directly at newly elected officials, before taking questions from the audience addressing the community’s clean water concerns.  As the forum takes place the day we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., organizers will weave a social justice narrative into the evening: Clean water is a basic buman right.
The arc for the conference takes attendees from the problems we confront, through the contributing factors & causes, and ultimately to remedies & solutions. Each panelist will cap their discussion with specific policy to cure or address the issue they have discussed. Panelists’ speaking order and topics are as follows:

  • John Cassani, The Calusa Waterkeeper

Topic:  Recent Historic Outbreaks of Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae;

  • Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director, Senior Attorney/The Center for Biological Diversity

Topic:  Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS);

  • Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy Director/SCCF

Topic:  Minimum Flow Levels (MFLs) from Lake Okeechobee;

  • Marisa Carrozzo, Senior Environmental Policy Specialist/The Conservancy of SWFL

Topic: Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and Stormwater Run-Off;

  • Dr. William J. ‘Bill’ Mitsch, Director/Everglades Wetland Research Park

Topic:  Wetland Restoration Solutions and the C-43 Reservoir (its intent and shortcomings);

  • Capt. Daniel Andrews, Co-Founder/Captains for Clean Water

Topic: The Southern Solution and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Reached for comment, Calusa Waterkeeper, John Cassani said, “It’s never been more important to engage water policy issues in Florida, now that a new administration has taken the reins with a new and enlightened outlook.”
The format for the evening allots each speaker ten minutes to address their particular issue. Then, organizers will open the floor for approximately one hour of questions from the audience.
According to Calusa Waterkeeper’s Executive Director, KC Schulberg, “This is part of a continuum. In August we held two Town Halls focused on the health consequences of harmful algae blooms. In October we hosted a forum highlighting the economic impact of these historic events. Now, even as preliminary messaging from the Governor’s office appears promising, it is critical that regional leaders in clean water advocacy keep up the pressure and take the lead in framing and guiding policy and legislation going into 2019.”
KC Schulberg, Executive Director
Calusa Waterkeeper