In our 30-year battle to save and protect America's Everglades, we have lacked true bipartisan leadership inside the state of Florida and within the halls of the United States Congress at the same time. In this Everglades Review, we share with you one of the finest Congressional hearings we have witnessed and why we believe the times are changing.
These video clips of the meeting illustrate exactly what we have been up against: how the sugar cartel and hundreds of their high paid lobbyists and consultants have worked to stop Everglades restoration. But THIS time, you will also hear the right questions being asked, witness effective bipartisanship at work and meet the political heroes making it happen.
In Washington, D.C., the Everglades have two remarkable superstars standing up to the status quo designed decades ago by and for the sugar industry – U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) representing the top of the broken water management system and U.S. Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) representing the southern end of the broken system.
Inside the state, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) continues to force the change necessary to get clean freshwater flowing south from Lake Okeechobee. He has not quit, nor has he backed down from his promise to us and all 21 million Floridians.
On the southern end of the system, we have a powerful ally: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava (D) is now running for Mayor of Miami-Dade. We have enthusiastically endorsed her candidacy, counting on her to win this race and then work with us to ensure more freshwater be sent south when and where it is needed.
Two elected officials using all their muscle to push clean freshwater south of Lake O. Two elected officials vigorously pulling, demanding that water reach them.
Two men. Two women. Two political parties.
At long last, Florida has legitimate champions challenging the status quo, standing up to the sugar industry - and by their actions declaring a new day for the Everglades and four nationally-important coastal estuaries. We pull together, not apart.
None of this is easy, but we are bullish about the road ahead.
Stick with us!
As a result of sugar’s lobbyists removing all the agreed-upon amendments that would give the Everglades, both coasts of Florida and our drinking water supply greater protections during this year’s Water Resources and Development Act vote, Congressman Brian Mast asked for a special meeting of this powerful committee.
Chaired by U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment met in person and virtually on September 24, taking expert testimony on the current state of affairs for the Everglades from some of Florida’s most knowledgeable – Secretary of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management Chauncey Goss, Vice President of the Everglades Foundation Shannon Estenoz, Keys fishing guide and boat captain Elizabeth Jolin, and Florida Farm Bureau and sugar rep, Gary Ritter.
*Special note: Gary Ritter of the Florida Farm Bureau is a very nice man. He continues to do the bidding of the sugar industry, but he remains a gentleman. He just happens to be dead wrong.
Brian Mast goes to Washington, and US Sugar and Florida Crystals do not like it one bit. This clip gives you the framework of the hearing. After months of bipartisan work to bring urgent relief to the Everglades and both coasts of Florida, sugar lobbyists swooped in at the 11th hour and stripped critical provisions out of WRDA 2020. Congressman Brian Mast explains it all - and hits it out of the park.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell asks the experts testifying: "Is the status quo acceptable?"
Florida Keys fishing guide, Elizabeth Jolin: "NO"
Everglades Foundation COO, Shannon Estenoz: "NO"
SFWMD board chair, Chauncey Goss: "NO"
Secretary of DEP, Noah Valenstein: "NO"
Farm Bureau and sugar rep, Gary Ritter: "YEP"
Watch Congressman Mast try to have the conversation with the sugar industry’s representative. Though the industry claims to “need” all this water, they don’t. In fact, we can find only one year since records have been kept that sugar suffered a loss due to drought: 1982. But every year, the Everglades suffer. Just this past March, the hottest and driest on record, sugar pulled 40 billion gallons of water out of Lake O to irrigate their crop, while Everglades National Park received only 100,000 gallons.
The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have ruled that cyanobacteria levels on freshwater bodies are too toxic for humans to touch if they exceed 8 ppb (parts per billion). In this clip, you will hear Florida’s Secretary of Environmental Protection discuss the findings earlier this summer where those toxins were at 800 ppb. Keep in mind, the sugar industry stripped protections for the coasts from this year’s Water Bill (WRDA 2020).
In this clip, Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell asks the experts what can be done to mitigate the brutal, but preventable, damage being done to the ecosystem – the drinking water supply for all of South Florida, the Everglades and four coastal estuaries – until these critical projects we fight for, especially the EAA reservoir, are up and running.
For those who are interested in watching the 90-minute hearing in its entirety, here is the link.