Yesterday, I attended the Rivers Coalition meeting. It was a nice surprise to see so many members of the South Florida Water Management District as they were not listed on the agenda. “The District visitors” included Drew Bartlett, Executive Director; Laurence Glenn, Division Director, Water Resources; Sean Cooley, Chief Communications and Public Policy Officer, Office of Communications and Public Engagement; Kathy LaMartina, Regional Representative, Orange, Osceola, Polk, St. Lucie and Martin Counties; and Governing Board Member, Cheryl Meads, At large East Coast, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The Rivers Coalition Meeting itself was entitled“Get the Muck Out of Here” and featured Joe Gilo, Lake Okeechobee Restoration Initiative, and Len Lindahl, McVicar Consulting/Diatom Project. Both presentations focused on improving water quaintly in the lake, an essential goal. Very interesting, but the presentations and question/answer sessions were cut short due to time.
Having the South Florida Water Management District as a guest is a rare honor thus they spoke before the planned speakers. Mr. Bartlett shared lake level facts and why water from Lake Okeechobee cannot be sent south when the Water Conservation Areas are already full. He mentioned that the new A-2 Storm Water Treatment Area is meant more for Lake Okeechobee Water. I wasn’t sure why he called it the “A-2” as we all know it as the “EAA STA.” No matter what it’s called, we all know that Mr. Bartlett is a talented executive director.
Mr. Glenn talked about the intricacies of managing the health of the Storm Water Treatment Areas and their legal job to cleanse the runoff water and meet water quality standards for the Everglades Agriculture Area. (Thus their water has priority to go through the storm water treatment areas first – hmmm?”)
Over the course of the meeting, what made the biggest impression on me, was when Drew Bartlett introduced Cheryl Meads as governing board member -“local representative.” Over the course of the past couple of years, Cheryl has moved from Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, where she first lived when appointed to the South Florida Water Management Governing Board, to Martin County and owns other properties in nearby counties. Cheryl and I both served as at-large members living in Martin County.
Although I was reappointed by Governor DeSantis for a second term serving on the South Florida Water Management Governing Board, I was not reconfirmed by the Senate and my term expired on June 19, 2023. Since that time, there has been no representation for “that seat” and we have all been waiting for a new appointment by the Governor. In August, three members were rereappointed: Chair Chancy Goss, Vice-Chair Scott Wagner, and Jay Steinle. It was thought that at that time, “the empty seat” would be filled. It was not.
I have to assume that yesterday’s gesture of Cheryl Meads being introduced by the Executive Director as the “local representative” implies that she is being directed to represent the Treasure Coast. Cheryl is a wonderful and environmentally oriented person as are all of the present governing board members. However, she is not a homegrown, fighting, St. Lucie River Warrior. At large members represent the entire east coast and when covering the “primary outlet” for the destructive discharges of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River requires special knowledge and attention. Please share with Cheryl your experiences and concerns. She is your new District voice!