As we prepare for Super Bowl Sunday, it’s easy to make parallels between football and our environment. Take the relationship between the quarterback and their receivers. If your QB is struggling, your receivers will likely be struggling as well. Or, if you have struggling receivers, your QB is probably not going to be playing their best. The same can be said about our ocean and the freshwater systems that feed into it.
Take Florida, for example. It’s clear that what happens in the Everglades impacts our ocean and vice versa. If the Everglades is struggling, our ocean will be struggling as well. And if our ocean isn’t at its best, the Everglades struggles as a result. In Florida, the health of our fresh and saltwater systems is intertwined, from Ocean to Everglades.
Like all good teams, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve both the Everglades and our ocean. Luckily, there are a few initiatives in Florida that will do just that. Here’s a look at three water quality initiatives in Florida that we’re working to see pushed across the goal line and into the end zone:
Clean Waterways Act
From the Everglades to our Ocean, the journey of freshwater in Florida is a remarkable one. Along this journey, the water flows through a complex path of rivers, lakes, canals and more, eventually finding its way to the ocean. Unfortunately, along this journey, the water is met with a variety of contaminants that put the water, our coastal communities and our ocean, in jeopardy.
Help, however, is on the way. The Clean Waterways Act, introduced by state Senator Debbie Mayfield, would tackle some of the major issues facing Florida’s waterways by adopting recommendations made by the blue-green algae task force and backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. By tackling pollution from stormwater, septic tanks and nutrients and fertilizers, The Clean Waterways Act takes an important step to ensuring the journey of freshwater through Florida is a clean one that benefits our communities and environment.
Cleaning Our Beaches
Nothing beats the beautiful, white-sand beaches of Florida. But in 2018, more than 190,000 cigarette butts were removed from waterways and beaches throughout Florida by more than 30,000 volunteers participating in the International Coastal Cleanup. If these cigarette butts were left in Florida’s ocean and coastal environment, they could find themselves being ingested by birds and fish and further polluting these precious places.
Fortunately, state Senator Joe Gruters and state Representative Chip LaMarca have introduced a bill to turn the tide on cigarette butts in our waterways. The bill, if passed, would prohibit smoking within the boundaries of a Florida state park and allow counties and municipalities to decide if smoking should be allowed on our local public beaches. Removing cigarette butt pollution from our beaches in Florida is paramount to ensuring they remain as beautiful as they are.
DeSantis Environmental Budget Request
Late last year, Governor Ron DeSantis sent to the Florida Legislature his request for $625 million in public funds to benefit numerous environmental projects throughout the state of Florida. The Governor’s request includes more than $300 million for much needed Everglades restoration projects, funding to ensure nutrient levels in waterways do not exceed dangerous levels and funding for watershed restoration projects. This funding also includes $22 million to combat harmful algal blooms, including red tide.
Ocean Conservancy is committed to ensuring the health of Florida’s ocean and coastal environment, and these three initiatives are a great step in the right direction. As the state legislature considers each of these initiatives, we will continue to monitor and advocate that they pass policies that will preserve Florida’s iconic natural environment.
Improving water quality in Florida is a team effort. There isn’t one single play that will save our Everglades and ocean. But if we come together, put together the right plays and work hard every day, we can make a wave of difference and help put #TeamOcean in the winner’s column.
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