“Time is a luxury we simply do not have.”
Urgency was on the agenda for a roundtable entitled America’s Water Resources Infrastructure: Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act, held at Founders Park in Islamorada on Saturday.
Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell brought Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) of the Water Resources and Environment subcommittee to participate in the roundtable with a group of stakeholders to discuss water infrastructure in Florida and Everglades restoration.
Participants and audience members alike looked out the window of the Founders Park
Community Center to see the resource they were speaking so urgently about, the Florida Bay.
Village of Islamorada Mayor Deb Gillis reminded the group that water based tourism is the
lifeblood of the community, and that the 4.5 billion dollar economy is based on the health of our
waters. Her message was clear, the without a healthy Florida Bay, the interconnected ecosystems
of the Florida Keys as well as the economy as we know it will collapse.
US Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, known for wearing rain boots to the Capitol to raise
awareness on issues relating to our Florida waters, was also present. Sea level rise was a hot
button issue for Senator Rodriguez and many of the participants of the roundtable, with a
particular emphasis on natural solutions and green infrastructure to buy Floridians more time to
grapple with the issue. One thing everyone at the table could agree on: restoring the Everglades
faster is just one of those natural solutions. Restoring freshwater flow to the Everglades and
Florida Bay is a project already 19 years under way, that with further expediency can help all of
us in the fight against sea level rise.
South Florida Water Management District board member and Islamorada Village Council
Member Cheryl Meads spoke, as many did, with urgency on the crisis at hand in the Everglades.
She explained that the seagrass meadows of the Florida Bay are the largest in the world, and that
they are equal to only the Amazon in their capacity as lungs for the planet. These lungs have
been dying, as most clearly demonstrated in the 2015 seagrass die-off that prompted so much
action toward Everglades restoration. Now, nearly five years later, stakeholders are at the table
and must all work together to push forward restoration projects faster than ever for the sake of
the Florida Bay, and the world.
Representative Napolitano closed out the roundtable by first reminding the group that we are so
lucky to have these amazing water resources in the first place. Her home state of California is the
home of water wars, where they are in fact fighting for every drop,due to the lack of freshwater
to be found in the state. While the issues are different, the takeaways remain the same. She
reminded every person in the room to reach out to their elected officials on every level to push
for further funding and expediency in all water infrastructure projects. She emphasized the use of
media to connect all of us across the state and to light the proverbial fire through these channels
to initiate action. While everyone at this roundtable was pushing to improve water infrastructure
and Everglades restoration, we know there are many voices in the conversation that influence
just how quickly these projects are completed.
This is why we must continue to push for restoration and press elected officials to take on the
sense of urgency Everglades restoration deserves. Our Florida Keys waterways, economy, and way of life, depend on it.