Putting 2019 into perspective: A historic year for Everglades restoration and Florida’s water quality

December 31, 2019

Over the greater part of a century, the Everglades was systematically drained by man as a means of progress and development. The fragile wilderness was slowly decimated, leaving unintended consequences: degrading water quality, loss of habitat and native species, and severe economic impact.  

Once it was realized that Florida’s economy and water quality depend on the health of the Everglades—action was taken to fix it. In 2000, Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem. 

In the years that followed, progress stagnated. Mismanagement of Florida’s water resources continued for the benefit of industrial agricultural entities who possessed the funding to influence policy and resource management in their favor. With little public awareness about what was happening, the health of the Everglades and Florida’s water weren’t political priorities and, therefore, continued to suffer.

Then, Florida’s water crisis hit an all-time high in 2016—surrounded by toxic algae, truckloads of dead marine life, and three nationally-renowned estuaries on the verge of collapse—no one could ignore that there was a very real problem. This is where things started to change. 

We’ve seen more progress toward Everglades restoration in the last three years than ever before. 

  • 2016: With an irrefutable water crisis threatening our way of life, we founded Captains For Clean Water to spread awareness and demand action from policymakers.
  • 2017: As public focus shifted to water issues, we started seeing results. The Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 10, authorizing and funding the state’s portion of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a critical project needed to restore the flow of water south.
  • 2018: Florida was slammed by an even greater water crisis. So, we mobilized in even greater numbers and acquired federal authorization for the EAA Reservoir through the Water Resources Development Act.
  • 2019: We built more momentum with victories in Tallahassee and Washington. We’ve managed to keep water quality the number one priority for state leadership and the funding and legislation are falling into place.

2019 will go down in history as a turning point for Everglades restoration. It’s unfortunate that it took a crisis to draw attention to water issues, but it’s now being translated into measurable action.

Since January 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 2019-12 which outlined a plan to accelerate Everglades restoration projects and alleviate harmful algal blooms. The Florida Legislature appropriated record funding for Everglades and water quality projects—over $625 million. The newly-formed Blue Green Algae Task Force involves top scientists meeting regularly and making water quality improvement recommendations that are being translated into new policy.

Less than two weeks ago, we received exciting news from Washington DC. In a bipartisan effort, the House and Senate came together and passed a budget that included $200 million for Everglades restoration which was signed by the President days later. This is only the second time in twenty years that the Federal Government has fully funded the budget needed for Everglades restoration.

Together, we are building momentum.

Let recent progress serve only as a reminder that we can make a difference. We have a lot to accomplish in 2020 and our focus remains solely on the path forward. The Florida Legislature needs to act on the nutrient pollution entering our waterways which fuels toxic algal blooms. We must push for increased state and federal funding so Everglades restoration projects such as the EAA Reservoir can be constructed in expedited timelines.

It wasn’t easy to build this momentum—and it’s easy to lose. We won’t let that happen.

In 2020, we will continue advancing the movement and strengthening our army of incredible supporters. Captains For Clean Water is growing and reaching more new people every day that are standing with us to achieve our mission: Advancing education, awareness, and scientifically-supported solutions to restore and protect marine ecosystems and our way of life for future generations.

Thank you for your unwavering support!