DeSantis rolls out water quality website
With the state of the water a paramount issue in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis was at Lover’s Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach Tuesday to tout a new website that folks can check to see the latest news on the safety of their water.
The website is ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov and it is up and running. It provides updates on water quality issues from red tide to algal bloom and health notifications.
The website currently focuses on three bodies of water, the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River. Eventually, it will include all of Florida’s waterways, DeSantis said.
Southwest Florida residents can check the red tide along the Caloosahatchee River from here to Sanibel and Boca Grande. Currently, the map on Fort Myers Beach has a caution sign which states, “Red Tide Algae may be in these waters. Avoid this beach if you have chronic respiratory problems. Keep pets away from water and dead fish. Do not swim near or touch dead fish.”
The website also links to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Red Tide map which currently has Fort Myers Beach at the highest red tide designation of greater than 1,000,000 Karenia brevis cells per liter as of Oct. 30.
DeSantis acknowledged that red tide continues to be an issue.
“It hasn’t been as bad as it was last year,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of money into research.”
His office claims it has invested a record amount of state funds into improving water quality.
One of the ways the state is attempting to stem the red tide is by cutting down on the nutrients dumped into the Caloosahatchee River, DeSantis said. The governor said his office is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to improve water quality.
Eric Sutton, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he traveled from Pine Island Sound to Boca Grande Tuesday morning to get a handle on the red tide.
“It’s impactful,” he said. “We’re still shell-shocked from the last event (last year).”
Sutton said his staff is studying the red tide to see if it is a normal event.
“Nothing compares to last year at this point,” he said.
Sutton said he traveled to Boca Grande to check on a report of a fish kill. While there have been fish kills reported in Lee County since Oct. 30, Fort Myers Beach has only one reported death of a mullet (on Oct. 31) as of Nov. 4.
DeSantis credited his wife Casey as the inspiration for the new initiative.
“The quality of the water is the lifeblood of the state,” said Mrs. DeSantis.
She said the number of visitors to the state in the first half of the year was an estimated 66 million, which was on pace for a new record.
“We need to have good, clean water,” she said, adding improving water quality was also key to the state’s $8 billion fishing industry.
The new website also gives the public an option to volunteer on improving water quality.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Gov. DeSantis said.