Your SWFL Chambers are Working for your Business!

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Your local chambers are committed to sharing your concerns. They have reached out to local, state and federal legislators, especially during our current water crisis.

The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, along with partners at the Bonita, Fort Myers, Sanibel/Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Naples and Southwest Florida Chambers, have composed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) regarding this issue. They are urging him to bring S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, to the Senate floor.

See a copy of the letter below.

September 27, 2018

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader, United States Senate
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Leader McConnell:

As representative members of the business community in southwest Florida, we are writing to express an urgent request that you bring S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, to the Senate floor. The legislation includes the biennial Water Resources Development Act and authorizes a critical Everglades restoration project known as the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir. The House of Representatives has already approved the companion measure, H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, which includes a placeholder for the reservoir.

As you are undoubtedly aware, our region has been ravaged by a perennial algae crisis caused by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. As advocates of the business interests in Lee and Collier Counties, we represent over 4,600 businesses suffering from this crisis. We are writing to impress upon you the multi-million dollar impact on our businesses and an untold amount of future economic impact on our tourism and real estate industries.

It is not overstating things to assert that we are desperate.

Southwest Florida has one major industry: tourism. Leisure, hospitality and vacation-related real estate overwhelm every other industrial sector in Florida, and particularly in our region, which includes Naples, Fort Myers and much of the Gulf Coast.

Our tourism-related businesses are being devastated by thick, toxic clouds of blue-green and red algae that have wracked our state in 3 of the last 5 years (2013, 2016 and 2018).

At one point this summer, blue-green algae blooms covered at least 40 percent of 730-square mile Lake Okeechobee. When the lake approaches flood stage, billions of gallons of its nutrient- and algae-laden lake water gets discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, resulting in fish kills, health concerns, and a disgusting odor that is indescribable – hardly an environment to attract vacationers.

Eighteen years ago, with the passage of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, policymakers and scientists alike agreed that the solution to Florida’s water crisis required restoration of America’s Everglades. The legislation envisioned construction of a dynamic reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store and cleanse massive quantities of this algae-causing lake water. Instead of being flushed onto our coasts, CERP directed that it be stored, cleansed and sent south to nurture the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Today, at long last, we appear poised to finally move this desperately needed project forward.

Following the 2016 algae outbreaks, the Florida legislature approved legislation funding the state’s 50 percent share of construction of the Everglades Reservoir.

Now, for the wellbeing of millions of people in southwest Florida, it is urgent that Washington follow Tallahassee’s lead.

We urge you — in the strongest possible terms — to call up S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, to the Senate floor for consideration.

In short, we implore you to save our region from this perennial algae crises. Our businesses will not be sustainable otherwise.

Sincerely,

Tiffany Esposito, President & CEO, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce
Donna Germain, President & CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral
Dave Miller, President & CEO, The Chamber of Southwest Florida
Jacki Liszak, President & CEO, Fort Myers Beach Chamber
Colleen DePasquale, President & CEO, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce
Michael Dalby, President & CEO, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce
John Lai, President & CEO, Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce

cc: The Honorable Bill Nelson
The Honorable Marco Rubio
The Honorable Rick Scott

Southwest Florida Water Quality Legislative Priorities
Federal
• $200 million dedicated funding annually for restoration projects
• Senate approval of Water Bill SB2800 (approval of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir) – httpss://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2800
State of Florida
• Gubernatorial candidates’ commitment for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir in 2019.
• Address pollution at the source – we need clean water (detailed strategies TBD)