The approval of a slew of additional cuts to water management districts Wednesday has environmentalists more than a little worried about the future of Florida’s waterways.
All of Florida’s five water management districts have recently been subject to 30 percent budget reductions and staff cuts. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott ordered all but one (the South Florida Water Management District) to make even more cuts. Though he praised them for submitting tentative budgets that slash spending by more than $700 million, Scott said that additional cuts (of $2.4 million) are necessary.
The South Florida district’s budget, at $571 million (a nearly 47 percent reduction) met the governor’s approval. During a press conference, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said that Scott wanted the districts to focus on their “core mission responsibilities”: water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural system protection.
In a new video posted by Lobby Tools, Audubon of Florida Director Eric Draper says that additional cuts to state water management districts could have a detrimental effect on water supply.
“I hope that the voters look past these political promises of a $700 million budget savings, and look, and ask the question, in a couple of years: ‘Is my water going to be clean? Am I going to actually have water when I turn on my tap?’” Draper said.
South Florida Water Management District head Melissa Meeker remained optimistic during yesterday’s announcement, saying that her agency remains committed to Everglades restoration and water storage projects, despite the cuts.
“You will not see a bump in the road from the South Florida Water Management District,” Meeker said.
In a statement, Draper said he felt the district heads and the governor were not ”being completely candid in telling the public how these cuts will affect water supply, environmental protection and Everglades restoration.”
Florida Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham had a surprisingly optimistic reaction to the cuts, telling the Daytona Beach News-Journal he didn’t think they would negatively affect Everglades restoration.