The Everglades. Credit: National Park Service
Gov. Rick Scott tried to get some environmental cred Tuesday during an Everglades campaign stop in his race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, but it backfired when the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club blasted Scott for holding what the group called “a self-serving, restricted attendance media event just one week before Election Day that was disguised as a major Everglades announcement. It’s political pandering at its worst…”
Scott announced he is directing $3.5 million in Florida Department of Transportation funding to start work on the final phase of a long-running project to raise portions of the Tamiami Trail, allowing more water to flow south through the Everglades. The east-west highway cuts the historic southward flow of water down the state’s peninsula, and efforts have gone on for decades to repair the damage. At his Everglades appearance, Scott complained that Congress hasn’t contributed enough to the massive federal-state Everglades restoration partnership.
But Scott is “desperately trying to whitewash his environmental record” and rewriting history “to serve his political ends” Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone said in a statement.
“Rick Scott is no champion of the Everglades – far from it,” Jackalone said.
Sierra Club’s Florida Chapter further charged:
“As Florida’s Governor, Scott gutted enforcement of clean water rules in Florida instead of stopping the pollution that fueled Florida’s toxic algae and red tide crisis. He spent eight years blocking efforts to clean the very water that would go under the Tamiami Trail bridges and installing water managers to do Big Sugar’s bidding.
“Scott scuttled growth management in Florida and replaced it with plans for new sprawling cities that would eliminate much of Florida’s rural farmland, bulldoze over wildlife habitat, and threaten the state’s depleted water supply. For eight years as governor, he stood idly by, denying climate change and abrogating his responsibility to work with state, national, and world leaders to stop the carbon pollution that is bringing rising seas and ever-stronger hurricanes to Florida and is threatening the very existence of the Everglades.
“Scott sabotaged our best chance of restoring the Everglades and protecting the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries when he publicly rejected Governor Charlie Crist’s historic contract to acquire 187,000 acres of sugar land that would allow us to move excess Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades. In its place, he and his water managers have designed a risky, 23 foot deep reservoir on a tiny footprint that is missing the wetlands needed to clean the contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee that the reservoir will hold.
The Scott camp reportedly snubbed the state’s main environmental groups when he made his Everglades visit to tout the Tamiami Trail road project.
“Environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, Audubon Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Conservancy of SW Florida, Florida Oceanographic Society, and other members of the Everglades Coalition that advocated for the project and provided input on the Tamiami Trail bridging project to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service for more than a decade weren’t invited to attend,” Sierra’s statement said. “We learned about it from photos of the event posted this morning by Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera.”
“Did he fear that Everglades supporters would show up holding Red Tide Rick protest signs?” Jackalone asked, referring to earlier campaign stops where angry protesters greeted the governor while dead sea creatures washed up on Florida’s shores due to a pollution-fueled red tide outbreak.
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