Op-Ed - Sustainable and Achievable Water Policy - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Op-Ed - Sustainable and Achievable Water Policy

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Posted: Friday, October 26, 2018 9:51 am

Water is critical to the Florida way of life, and in no other area is that more clear than in our House District 120. With a national marine sanctuary at one end of the district and local family farmers growing crops found nowhere else in our country at the other, water is life to South Florida. As a result, we have always been engaged and committed to balancing environmental protection with managing the water resource needs of our communities. Completing a central sewer system in the Florida Keys was close to a billion-dollar endeavor- a cost borne not just by local, state, and federal dollars, but by our

residents as well. That type of commitment is a model for the rest of the state and one that is gaining more and more attention as other areas look for ways to tackle nutrient pollution in our water.

Florida faces a number of challenges when it comes to water, including challenges with protecting our water supply, addressing water quality issues that impact our coral reefs, and accelerating the restoration of the Florida Everglades. Everglades restoration has certainly not moved as fast as was expected when the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was approved in 2000, but in the six years I have served in the Florida House I have seen the awareness of these issues rise among both my colleagues and the

citizens of Florida. There have been real successes on these issues too, and these successes give me confidence that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to Everglades restoration and water policy overall. It is

critical that we continue this forward progress, and quickly, but I think it is also important that we recognize the progress that has been made.

In 2016, the Legacy Florida Act was passed to ensure that a minimum of $200 million a year was invested in Everglades projects including CERP and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). I also had the opportunity that year to sponsor and pass the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which authorized substantial funding for water quality projects and acquisition of environmentally sensitive land in the Florida Keys, creating a framework for the long-term preservation of our unique marine environment.

The following year, Senate Bill 10 was proposed by Senate President Joe Negron to prioritize and expedite the establishment of a southern

reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to increase storage and freshwater flow south and set very aggressive timelines for the completion of the project. I have always supported the southern reservoir as a critical component of CERP and passing Senate Bill 10 was a major accomplishment for Everglades restoration. It was also a great example of bringing all stakeholders together on all sides of an issue to find a path forward in alleviating the harmful discharges we have been seeing year after year from Lake Okeechobee.

Here at the southern end of the Everglades, we also need to focus on conveyance. As critical as southern storage is to Everglades restoration, we aren’t going to see the improvements in freshwater flow to Florida Bay without the means to move that water south which is why I’ve worked to accelerate several important conveyance projects in recent years. Those

projects include expediting the Tamiami Trail Bridging project and securing funding for the C-111 Spreader Canal and the C-111 South Dade project, which just this summer the Everglades Foundation COO Shannon Estenoz touted as the “one of the most important milestones in Everglades restoration.”

Crafting sustainable and achievable water policy means building consensus and balancing a complex number of stakeholder interests. As your state representative for the last six years, I’ve worked across the aisle to support policy changes and funding allocations that will help advance Everglades restoration from a system-wide perspective, as well as address the unique challenges that face South Dade and the Florida Keys and will continue to do so.

Holly Raschein

State Representative, District 120

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