If you’re like me and love to fish, boat, swim, paddle, surf, or enjoy any activity based in or around water, your help is needed!
Here is a partial list of some of Florida’s recent water quality issues that restricts Floridians’ ability to enjoy all of the above and negatively impacts small businesses like mine throughout the state.
• Eighty percent of our 1,000 artesian springs are polluted.
• Red tides have increased dramatically in frequency, duration, and virulence during the past three decades, causing massive fish die-offs, respiratory problems in people, and injury to local tourist economies.
• Increasingly common blue-green algae blooms cause marine die-offs, too, and are being linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
• We have nearly a million acres of estuaries and 9,000 miles of rivers and streams that are contaminated with fecal bacteria.
• No state has more acres of polluted lake water than does Florida.
• Impacting recreational and commercial fishing, no state has lost more acres of wetlands than has Florida: 9.3 million.
• Seagrass beds, also important to recreational and commercial fishing, are nearly in a death spiral.
We are fortunate to be located on the Matanzas River, the last stretch of water clean enough for commercially viable oysters in the state, but the trend in declining water quality is a major concern to me and a threat to tackle shops and small businesses.
When it comes to our polluted waters, the buck stops with the state. Florida waters are in these conditions because our state government permits pollution and environmental degradation through its actions and inactions. It actively permits the destruction of vital wetlands to make way for unchecked development. Through its inactions, it fails to monitor, enforce, and, in some cases, establish water quality standards.
Special interests that wield undue influence over legislators and thus environmental policy are a big part of the problem. In 2015, for example, water district managers were ready to crackdown on agricultural pollution when they let a sugar lobbyist dictate edits to an annual report that paved the way for weaker regulations. The final policy took polluters at their word regarding environmental safeguards and held no one accountable if water quality suffered.
In 2020, looking to clean up their polluted waterways themselves, an astounding 89% of Orange County voters approved a Rights of Nature / Right to Clean Water charter amendment. Obviously, Floridians of all types understand the paramount importance of clean water to our quality of life in the Sunshine State. But ignoring this mandate from the people, and to protect special interests, the Florida legislature swiftly preempted the authority of local governments to pass such laws.
In the February issue, Florida Sportsman ran not one, but two articles on a proposed “Right to Clean and Healthy Waters,” constitutional amendment now being advanced through a citizens’ initiative for the 2024 ballot for voters to vote on. This is where your help is needed!
Senior Editor Blair Wickstrom writes, “It’s time yet again for citizens to do the work our legislators choose to ignore…We need the Right to Clean and Healthy Waters written into the state constitution.” 891,589 signed and approved petitions are needed by November 30th, 2023, to qualify for the 2024 ballot. Before that, 223,000 petitions are needed to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review. (We have petitions that can be signed down here at Genung’s Fish Camp)
This amendment would establish an environmental right on par with other fundamental rights such as the right to free speech and the right to bear arms. Given how critical clean water is to Floridians, we merit this right. With it enshrined in our constitution, we can hold state government accountable when it permits pollution and degradation of our waters and aquatic ecosystems.
Go to FloridaRightToCleanWater.org to read the full text of the amendment. Be sure to browse the FAQs for additional information.
As you read, you will learn that under this law your neighbor cannot sue you for fertilizing your lawn, that there will not be a proliferation of lawsuits, and that winning a court case doesn’t mean someone will walk away with wads of cash. What it does mean is that our government has to provide real remedies for polluted waterways.
Note the growing list of nearly one hundred organizations and businesses supporting this amendment. Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida Springs Council, Florida Fly-Fishing Association, Florida Scuba Divers, Florida League of Women Voters, Florida Veterans for Common Sense, Friends of the Everglades, VoteWater.org, Waterkeeper chapters, and Genung’s Fish Camp are just a few.
So, if you are a registered Florida voter, print out, sign, and mail the petition (or sign one next time you’re in Genung’s). It takes three minutes. Get family and friends to do the same. You can mail five petitions in one envelope with one stamp.
Florida’s environmental regulatory system is failing us and Florida waters. A constitutional, fundamental “Right to Clean and Healthy Waters” can bring the systemic change that is needed.
Thank you for your help! Please reach out to me with any questions.
Also, don’t forget that nominations are now open for Club Officers. Nominations will be accepted starting March 1st and ending April 20th. The nomination form can be found on page 10 of this issue or by clicking here.
Capt. Adam Morley