Gov. Ron DeSantis is joined by Captains for Clean Water during a June 8 press conference in Fort Myers. CAPTAINS FOR CLEAN WATER/Contributed

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a Senate bill that would have changed the equitable distribution of water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

During a June 8 press conference in Fort Myers, DeSantis said he heard from many fishing guides and clean water advocates throughout Florida who voiced opposition to the bill over the past several months. 

“Protecting Florida’s natural resources has been a top priority since my first day in office,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The health of the Everglades, Florida’s springs, and so many other resources are the foundation of our communities and economy and play an important role in the everyday lives of Floridians.”

Halfway through the Florida legislative session in February, Florida Senate leaders fast-tracked Senate Bill 2508, which included major water-related policy changes that would be written into law. And some groups, including the Captains for Clean Water, believed the bill gave preferential treatment of the industrial sugar industry. It was filed as a budget conforming bill, which allowed it to circumvent the standard legislative process and minimized opportunity for public input.

Captains for Clean Water applauded the governor’s decision to veto the bill. The group of guides, including those from the Keys, ventured to Tallahassee during session to inform legislators of the bill’s negative effects.

“Thank you Governor DeSantis for standing firm in your commitment to protect Florida’s waterways by vetoing Senate Bill 2508—the bad water policy that would have reversed years of Everglades restoration and water quality progress, elimination of Lake Okeechobee discharges, and equitable distribution of water use, all in favor of Big Sugar,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, executive director for Captains for Clean Water. 

Per the Captains for Clean Water, legislation in its original form affected two critical components to solving south Florida’s water crisis. It undermined the new lake operations schedule (LOSOM) which is slated to reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges by 37% annually and send three times more water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. It also prioritized additional projects which could have diluted funding for the EAA Reservoir, the cornerstone project of Everglades restoration.

Chauncey Goss, South Florida Water Management District chairman, said the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2508 is yet another example of his commitment to the protection of Florida’s water resources.

DeSantis was in Fort Myers to highlight the signing of the Freedom First Budget and more than $1.2 billion for Everglades restoration. Through the Freedom First Budget, Florida has now surpassed Governor DeSantis’ four-year goal with a total investment of more than $3.3 billion for Everglades restoration and the protection of water resources since 2019.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.