DeSantis claims EAA reservoir ‘will solve our toxic algae crisis’

OKEECHOBEE — Former Congressman Ron DeSantis is the latest in a string of politicians to claim credit for the planned Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.

“I was instrumental in getting the federal component for the southern reservoir, which is going to solve our toxic algae crisis, in this year’s water bill,” said Mr. DeSantis in the Oct. 21 televised debate against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I was the one who got White House approval for the southern component of the reservoir,” he said.

“When they elect me governor, they are going to have a governor who believes in science, which we have not had for some time,” said Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“Some of the biggest polluters in the state support Mr. DeSantis,” said Mayor Gillum, who declared that the water quality issues include the area north of Lake Okeechobee. He said agriculture plays a role in the nutrient load issues, but he added it is just one part of the problem.

Mayor Gillum said he is concerned about the hyper-development north of Lake Okeechobee.

“We’ve got to deal with all of that,” he said. “I will hold the biggest polluters accountable and responsible for the degradation of our environment,

“For 20 years we have handed over the keys for environmental protection in this state to, quite frankly, the biggest corporate polluters,” said Mayor Gillum.

In the debate, Mr. DeSantis also bragged about his endorsement by the Everglades Trust.

“That’s the gold standard,” he said.

Mr. Gillum does not share Mr. DeSantis’ view of the Everglades Trust, noting the organization donated $250,000 to the Republican Party.

He added that he has endorsements from many environmental advocates including national organizations.

Florida Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club have endorsed Mr. Gillum. Florida Conservation Voters, previously called Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, is coalition of nonprofit environmental organizations.

South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials have repeatedly stressed that the EAA reservoir alone will not solve the water flow and nutrient load issues that lead to blue-green algae blooms in the coastal waterways. Other politicians who have supported the reservoir plan (and also claimed partial credit for it) have also been careful to note that it is not a “silver bullet” and is just one part of a series of interconnected projects in the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) needed to prevent harmful freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA), which came from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, passed the House of Representatives Sept. 13 with unanimous bipartisan support. Congressman Brian Mast has also promoted it as one of his successes. A companion bill, which also had widespread bipartisan support in the Senate, was promoted by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and passed the Senate 99-1 on Oct. 10.

Mr. DeSantis resigned from Congress on Sept. 10.

President Donald Trump signed the WRDA bill on Oct. 23. WRDA authorizes $147 billion in funding for a wide range of projects. However, Congressional approval and appropriation are two different things. According to Corps officials, once funding is allocated, it will take about seven years for project engineering and construction of the EAA reservoir.

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