Jose Javier Rodriguez: Everglades Superstar

Often and justifiably, we focus on the bad guys in this environmental and economic disaster. But it’s also important for Floridians to know who the good guys are. This week we’re highlighting another Everglades champion: State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, (affectionately known as JJR).

Whether at home in Miami-Dade or at the State Capitol, donning his trademark rainboots, Senator Rodriguez keeps Florida’s environment and the challenges we face with climate change front and center. JJR realizes sea level rise isn't just an issue of critical importance to Miamians, but for all Floridians. He also recognizes that a hydrated and healthy Everglades is key to fighting saltwater intrusion as a result of sea level rise. 

An Eagle Scout (well, of course he was!) and time in the Peace Corps filled his early years, JJR has spent his political career eschewing special interests. As a State House Rep, he introduced legislation to limit deep injection wells. In the State Senate, he's introduced legislation to force polluters to clean up their own mess; legislation to ban permitting of oil and gas wells in the Everglades; and legislation that would force developers to assess sea level rise in construction planning. 

In 2017, when Jeff Clemens, Democratic Senate Minority Leader, blocked every effort to pass SB10 - the legislation for the critical reservoir in the EAA, one Democrat, in particular, stood solid on the Senate floor.

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A legal reckoning for Big Sugar, decades in the making

For 50+ years, the sugar industry in Florida has wreaked havoc on our waterways and Everglades. But it has also knowingly employed a toxic process called pre-harvest burning, in order to reduce their costs in the harvesting of sugarcane, inflicting harm to those who breathe the air.

This poisonous practice sends smoke and ash blanketing communities, seeping into homes, schools, and public buildings in Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay. The air, thick with smoke and noxious fumes can lead to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. These carcinogens in the air can be toxic for people of all ages, but are especially dangerous for children and the elderly. 

Florida Crystals and US Sugar have had the technology to eliminate the burning of cane, using a mechanical process referred to as green harvesting – a clean and sustainable practice that doesn't send toxic smoke and carcinogenic ash into the air to blanket homes and property.

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Don't eat the fish in Lake Okeechobee...

“Lake O, laden with nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, is again fostering what is becoming an annual bloom of toxic algae. Meanwhile, commercial fishermen are busy harvesting catches of catfish, bream and tilapia from these same algae-laden waters.

So we're actively harvesting and selling fish caught from waters we know to be harmful to human recreational contact. This has bad idea written all over it.”

TC PALM: Lake Okeechobee fish: Is it safe to eat?

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New leadership brings new outlook. Refreshing.

A new breed of men and women have been appointed to the Governing Board of the most powerful agency in South Florida, comprising 16 counties – the South Florida Water Management District.

For the first time in the history of the agency, not one of the board members has ties to agriculture or big users of the public’s water. Each of them has a background that includes the environment. Thinkers and doers, they did not accept this assignment to be wallflowers or part of the “go along to get along” crowd.

The Board, along with agency leadership from Drew Bartlett, has the mandate to make generational changes to systems – environmental and political – that have been decimated over the past 30 years. They’ve been empowered by Governor DeSantis and the public to do it.

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The Everglades clicks their heels!

After 30 years of fighting for Everglades restoration, we're used to small wins.

Most of the time we see incremental progress, but not big wins.

This week, however, we're celebrating a giant leap forward. This time from our partner – the federal government.

Recently, we told you about the White House amending their original budget request for the Everglades in next year’s budget. The Trump Administration increased it to our original $200 million request. The House approved it. We’re waiting for the Senate to vote on it any day. 

Now, we've got a commitment from US DOT for $60 million, the federal funding we need for the work to begin under Phase 3 of the Tamiami Trail bridge project.  We've already seen three and a half miles of bridging completed, with the actual roadway removed. This final phase includes the last six and a half miles of road work and giant culverts that will allow water to flow under past the roadway into Everglades National Park and down to Florida Bay. 

For the first time in decades, we're getting the level of federal funding that is necessary to move Everglades restoration forward. And that wasn't possible without the State's $40 million portion. 

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Toxic Florida: A Human Health Crisis

With sound, independent and overwhelming scientific consensus as our guide, we have worked for the past 30 years to get local, state and federal officials to understand the dire circumstances facing Florida and America’s Everglades.

We told them it would get uglier
it has.

We told them it would get more expensive
it has.

We’ve explained the cost of inaction
it’s incalculable.

The most important issue isn’t what we must do next. That question is already answered and is uncontroverted scientific fact: Send more clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Given that we know what to do next, we are left with ballot-box choices.

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Broken Political System. Broken Everglades. 

Everyone knows it: Our political system is broken, proof of which can be seen in the collapsing Everglades and Florida’s toxic waters.

But here's what most people don't know: There is a solution. We urge conservatives, liberals and moderates to watch Unbreaking America. Best 12 minutes you’ll spend today.

Represent Us: Unbreaking Florida: Solving the corruption crisis

It almost seems trite to worry about stone crab season. Unless it’s your family’s business, that is. The loss to the industry and all who enjoy the sweet crab claw is a harbinger of things to come if the Florida Legislature continues to drag its feet on real solutions to escalating toxins in our waterways.

NBC2: Stone crabs may be facing their worst season in 15 years

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The Everglades: A Federal Priority 

Last week, we shared with you the good news that the Florida Legislature delivered on Governor DeSantis’ record funding request for the Everglades.

Earlier this week, President Trump gave his public support (in a Tweet, no less) for the $200 million for Everglades funding we’ve been calling for, urging Congress to join him. For years, we've lobbied the federal government to hold up their end of the bargain for Everglades restoration, only to see the Everglades shortchanged.

For all who understand the urgency of this decades-long effort, this is tremendous news. But more work will need to be done to ensure this requested level is sustained.

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Bucking the Status Quo

The Everglades and coastal estuaries have been in desperate need of the right person to stand up for them, bucking the status quo and fighting like Florida’s very life depended on it.

Governor DeSantis asked for record funding for the environment, and the Legislature delivered. Along with an impressive list of executive actions, this year’s budget increase of nearly $700 million signals to all Floridians that we have a Governor who will not shrink from the enormity of the task.

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