On Wednesday morning, Co-Founders of Captains for Clean Water Capt. Daniel Andrews and Capt. Chris Wittman traveled to Tallahassee for the second time this month to speak to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. Along with Chris and Daniel was James Evans, the Director of Natural Resources for Sanibel Island, David Schulendfrei, Past President of the Sanibel-Captiva Realtors Association, and Chris Davison, VP and General Manager of Island Inn and Board Member of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce. We each got to speak and show our support for Senator Negron’s plan to purchase EAA land to construct the critical EAA Reservoir project. After the committee hearing on the Lake Okeechobee and Everglades issues, Daniel and Chris met with several key legislators to stress the importance of a long-term solution to our water crisis. Read the important message sent to the Florida Legislature by the founders of Captains for Clean Water below.
To The Florida Legislature:
I am a 25-year-old Fort Myers native and co-founder of Captains for Clean Water. I grew up fishing the waters surrounding Fort Myers and Sanibel with my family and walked away from a full scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University to pursue my dreams as a full-time fishing guide. As a small business owner, I fully depend on the health of the estuaries to make a living. The future of my business- and the future of the $25 billion fishing and boating industry in Florida are directly tied to the water quality in our estuaries.
No matter how you look at it- we have a serious problem. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are in long-term decline due to massive, unnatural discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, Florida Bay, located at the southern tip of the Everglades, is dying because it isn’t getting enough freshwater. When God designed this magnificent ecosystem- he had it right. We’ve disrupted the natural flow of water through the state, and inflicted harm upon the estuaries for decades. It is our responsibility, and in our best interest to move forward with projects that will make meaningful differences to our estuaries for the sake of our economy and quality of life.
Looking at graphs and charts of our water conditions can be confusing, and at times boring. But sitting on an 18-foot boat all day with a client who is paying upwards of a thousand dollars for a day of fishing is nothing short of frustrating when we are trying to fish barren sand flats that used to be covered in seagrass and oyster beds filled with fish and other marine life. My clients often come to Florida for the first time on a fishing trip and end up buying houses, and starting businesses in the area. They spend money at hotels, restaurants, and retail stores in the area.
We are faced with a dilemma: Everglades restoration is a multifaceted effort, and our estuaries are withering away at an alarming rate. It is imperative that we prioritize projects that will do the most to alleviate discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, while at the same time providing clean freshwater for the Everglades. Increased storage, treatment, and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is essential to solving our water crisis. Senator Negron’s plan to construct a 60,000-acre reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area needs to be at the very top of Everglades restoration projects. It simply can’t happen fast enough.
As fishing guides in South Florida, we are the “canaries in the coal mine”, and the canaries are dying. If we continue to allow our estuaries to wither away, our economy will collapse. That is why Captains for Clean Water quickly gained the support of the leading corporations in the fishing industry such as Yeti Coolers, Orvis, Simms, Patagonia, Mustad Hooks, Costa Sunglasses, SeaDek and many others. They’re counting on us to keep Florida the Fishing Capital of the World.
Capt. Daniel Andrews