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SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and Environmental Leaders Visit Florida Bay to Discuss Everglades Restoration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 20, 2020

Secretary Valenstein and Chris Peterson, St. Johns River Water Managment District Governing Board Member, head out into Florida Bay to see first-hand the importance of Everglades restoration to the health of all water bodies in South Florida.

SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss, Captain Daniel Andrews, executive director of Captains for Clean Water (CFCW), and Captain Chris Wittman, co-founder of CFCW, discuss the symbiotic relationship between Everglades restoration and the health of fisheries in Florida Bay.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has prioritized the preservation of Florida’s natural landscapes, enabling native ecosystems and the species they harbor to thrive. These historic and ongoing efforts are especially evident in the restoration and protection of America’s EvergladesTogether with partners at the federal and local level, the state of Florida is spearheading one of the largest environmental restoration projects in the world by revitalizing America’s Everglades. 

Highlighting the importance of these efforts, yesterday, DEP Secretary Noah ValensteinSouth Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss, along with Captains for Clean Water co-founders Captain Daniel Andrews and Captain Chris Wittman visited the critical ecosystem of Florida Bay -shallow, sub-tropical estuary nestled between the coastal wetlands of the Southern Everglades and the Florida Keys. 

The health of Florida Bay is a prime example of the efficacy and progress of water-quality improvement efforts in south Florida. Florida Bay is home to a wide diversity of wildlife and provides crucial habitat for young and adult gamefish.The health of Florida Bay depends on the quality and flow of fresh water from the Everglades into the bay, a natural process that has been disrupted by man-made changes. These disruptions have resulted in parched wetland habitats and high salinity levels in Florida Bay, which are detrimental to biodiversity and can lead to seagrass die off. Healthy seagrass in Florida Bay is vital to minimizing the risk of harmful algal blooms and maintaining the balanced ecosystems that fisheries and local communities depend on.  

The visit to Florida Bay showcased a greater understanding of the ecological significance of this water body and further illustrated the link between the Everglades and South Florida’s water quality. Immersed in Florida’s native habitat, participants visited the Shark River to see the largest mangroves in the state and fished for snook and redfish in abundant seagrass meadows.  

“It’s a privilege to experience Florida at its wildest,” said Secretary Valenstein. “The real Florida lives on in the Everglades and within Florida Bay. The efforts of Governor DeSantis, DEP, the SFWMD, the federal government and our local partners are invaluable to the continued protection of these unique habitats. Florida's water resources are the driving force of our economy, environment and way of life as Floridians. A natural flow of clean, fresh water south through the Everglades will ensure these unique ecosystems are preserved for generations to come.”  

“Spending time today in Florida Bay with Secretary Valenstein and Captains for Clean Water serves as another reminder of why we must expedite Everglades restoration projects like the EAA Reservoir Project,” said Chairman Chauncey Goss, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board. “Like I did today, Floridians and visitors from around the world come to experience the stunning beauty of Florida Bay and Whitewater Bay. Sending more water south supports important ecosystems in these special places and reduces the need for harmful discharges to our northern estuaries. Thanks to the support of Governor DeSantis and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District will continue to advance restoration projects and do more now for America’s Everglades.” 

The tour also observed first-hand the importance of water-quality protection efforts in Snake Bight, the only place in the world where crocodile and alligators coexist. This bight is a bay within the larger Florida Bay. Snake Bight is renowned for its tropical hardwood hammock habitat and unique tropical tree species.  

Federal funding for Everglades restoration set record levels through $235 million appropriated in 2020. Combined with $780 million in state funding allocated over the past two years, the total funding for Everglades restoration exceeds half a billion dollars per year. In addition to the Everglades restoration funding, Governor DeSantis has provided over $520 million in water quality investments throughout Florida over the past two years. The Everglades and the ecosystems it supports are international treasures, and the unprecedented financial commitments of the state and federal governments to protect these resources are monumental. 

“As part of the tour, we explored the backwater area known as Hell's Bay—a pristine, untouched system that illustrates what we're trying to preserve through Everglades restoration and the best representation of what the 'River of Grass' means to downstream waters and habitats in the central and southern Everglades," said Captain Daniel Andrews, Executive Director of Captains for Clean Water. "Our tour of Florida Bay and the broader Everglades ecosystem has only strengthened our determination to carry out Governor DeSantis' commitment to accelerate the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir and complete the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan."

Shark River, Everglades National Park.

Snake Bight, the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators coexist.