Vote for the River: Candidate Survey Responses

Vote for the River: Candidate Survey Responses Blue Cypress Lake, headwaters of the St. Johns, impacted by pollution in June 2018. Statewide, Florida is suffering from years of reduced monitoring and enforcement of known pollution sources.

Florida primaries are on August 28, and the November 2018 General Election is right around the corner. It is important to elect candidates who support efforts to protect and restore the St. Johns River. More importantly, we need leaders who will make the river a priority, leading the charge to address and resolve the problems that impact the health of the St. Johns.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER does not endorse candidates. However, we believe having an educated and informed electorate is critical to taking action to best protect our river. We have asked every candidate running for US Senate, Florida Governor, Florida Senate and House within the watershed for a response to a survey about the most critical issues facing the St. Johns River and its tributaries.

Below are the survey responses we have received from the candidates, so far. We will update this page, as we receive more responses. The General Election is November 6, 2018.  

CLICK HERE to find your districts and current Florida elected officials. 

October 9, 2018 is the LAST day to register to vote in Florida. Register to vote online today!

US Senate

Bill Nelson (D) - Did not repond

Rick Scott (R) - Did not respond

Florida Governor

Andrew Gillum (D) - Did not respond

Ron DeSantis (R) - Did not respond

Florida Senate

District 4: Aaron Bean (R) - Did not respond

District 4: Billie Bussard (D)

District 4: Joanna Tavares (L) - Did not respond

District 8: Kayser Enneking (D)

District 8: Keith Perry (R) - Did not respond

District 12: Dennis Baxley (R) - Did not respond

District 12: Gary McKechnie (D) - Did not respond

District 14: Melissa Martin (D)

Florida House 

District 11: Cord Byrd (R)

District 11: Nathcelly Rohrbaugh (D) - Did not respond

District 12: Timothy Yost (D)

District 12: Clay Yarborough (R) - Did not respond

District 14: Kimberly Daniels (D) - Did not respond

District 15: Wyman Duggan (R) - Did not respond

District 15: Tracye Polson (D)

District 16: Ken Organes (D)

District 16: Jason Fischer (R) - Did not respond

District 17: Jaime Perkins (NPA)

District 17: Cyndi Stevenson (D)

District 19: Bobby Payne (R) - Did not respond

District 19: Paul Still (D)

District 21: Jason Haeseler (D) - Did not respond

District 22: Bernard Parker (D)

District 22: Charlie Stone (R) - Did not respond

District 23: Carl Griffin (D)

District 23: Stan McClain (R) - Did not respond

District 25: Joseph Hannoush (L)

District 25: Kathleen Tripp (D)

District 25: Tom Leek (R) - Did not respond

District 26: Katherine Fetterhoff (R) - Did not respond

District 26: Patrick Henry (D) - Did not respond

District 27: Carol Lawrence (D)

District 27: David Santiago (R) - Did not respond

District 28: Lee Mangold (D) - Did not respond

District 28: David Smith (R) - Did not respond

District 29: Tracey Kagan (D) - Did not respond

District 29: Scott Plakon (R) - Did not respond

District 30: Bob Cortes (R) - Did not respond

District 30: Joy Goff-Marcil (D) - Did not respond

District 31: Debra Kaplan (D)

District 31: Jennifer Sullivan (R) - Did not respond

District 32: Cynthia Brown (D) - Did not respond

District 32: Anthony Sabatini (R) - Did not respond

District 44: Robert Olszewski (R) - Did not respond

District 44: Geraldine Thompson (D) - Did not respond

District 46: Bruce Atone (D) - Did not respond

District 47: Anna Eskamani (D)

District 47: Stockton Reeves (R) - Did not respond

District 49: Ben Griffin (R) - Did not respond

District 49: Carlos Smith (D) - Did not respond

District 50: Pam Dirschka (D) - Did not respond

District 50: Rene Plasencia (R) - Did not respond

District 51: Mike Blake (D) - Did not respond

District 51: Tyler Siriois (R) - Did not respond

District 52: Seeta Begui (D)

District 53: Randy Fine (R) - Did not respond

District 53: Phil Moore (D)

District 54: Erin Grall (R) - Did not respond

District 54: Nicole Haagenson (D) - Did not respond

Florida Waterkeepers Unite to Protect Florida’s Waters

Florida Waterkeepers Unite to Protect Florida’s Waters

On July 31, Florida Waterkeepers joined forces in Tallahassee to stand up for Florida waters. Waterkeepers united from across the state representing urban and rural communities and waterways in and around the watersheds of the Indian River Lagoon, Tampa Bay, Matanzas River, St. Johns River, St. Marys River, Suwannee River, and Apalachicola River.

At a time when waters and communities throughout Florida are plagued with harmful algal blooms and threatened by rising waters, Waterkeepers across the state met with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to express serious concern and a sense of urgency to protect and restore Florida’s rivers, coast, bays, estuaries, lakes, springs, and aquifer.

As demonstrated by Hurricane Irma, major storms deteriorate water quality, threaten human health, and undermine Florida’s economy. Absent more proactive action and investment in becoming more resilient, water quality protection, and adaptation efforts, Florida’s economy, environment, and public health will suffer.

Florida Waterkeepers submitted a joint request strongly urging FDEP to fully protect our waterways and our community by increasing Florida’s ability to withstand future storms. Recommendations include comprehensive audit of infrastructure vulnerability and storm risk to accurately price the cost of inaction, prioritization of green infrastructure, and enhanced protection of wetlands and mangroves. Read the details.

Another ongoing threat is excess nutrient pollution from sewage sludge, failing septic tanks, aging infrastructure, stormwater runoff, and agricultural runoff. This pollution fuels toxic green algae, brown slime, and red tide. Inadequate monitoring and lack of timely health advisories puts Floridians in harm’s way. Absent a comprehensive strategy to target the root causes and to stop this pollution at its source is a recipe for environmental, human health, and economic disaster.

On July 25, 2018, samples of cyanobacteria in the Cape Coral tidal canals on the Caloosahatchee River revealed an alarming high level of the toxin microcystin nearing 40,000 ug/l (parts per billion.) These levels are dramatically higher than EPA's recommended safe recreational standard, 4 ug/l, and is consistent with risks to human health and animal mortality.

Urgent action is long-overdue. Waterkeepers requested the activation of the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force; prioritize testing the actual algal bloom and publicize health advisories of toxic outbreaks quickly, a statewide moratorium against sewage sludge disposal near waterways; septic tank phase out strategies and the development and enforcement of truly restorative Basin Management Action Plans. The entire group presented a resolution against phosphate mining. In addition, the water advocates further voiced their joint opposition to FDEP’s efforts to assume the dredge and fill permits regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Florida’s waterways are uniquely connected and thus should be comprehensively and collectively protected under the Clean Water Act. Florida’s Waterkeepers are united in our goals to protect Florida’s water. 

The Florida Waterkeepers share an unwavering commitment to protect the environmental integrity of Florida’s rivers, coast, bays, estuaries, lakes, springs and aquifer through science-based advocacy and a unified voice. There are currently 14 Waterkeepers in the State of Florida and each independent organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect thousands of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Part scientist, teacher, and legal advocate, Waterkeepers combine firsthand knowledge of their waterways with an unwavering commitment to the rights of their communities and to the rule of law. Whether on the water, in a classroom, or in a courtroom, Waterkeepers speak for the waters they defend – with the backing of their local community and the collective strength of Waterkeeper Alliance.


Temporary Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Land Application

Temporary Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Land Application Biosolids dumping in headwaters - photo credit: Barbara Buhr

On July 10, 2018, St. Johns Riverkeeper and its Headwaters Advisory Council sent an Urgent Request for an Immediate Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Application within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns. This request follows months of information sharing among experts and regulators about spiking pollution, particularly phosphorus, within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns River. Click here to see the full letter.

On July 13, they issued a 180-day moratorium at Pressley Ranch adjacent to our headwaters at Blue Cypress Lake. While this is a small win and step in the right direction, we still have concerns ... 

  • Other locations where sewage sludge is still going
  • The sludge slated for Pressley Ranch now has to go somewhere else
  • The State's commitment to long-term policy changes.

Here are excerpts of what we have been tracking and the action that is needed right now to protect the St. Johns from sewage sludge, pollution, and its impacts:

  • FDEP confirmed that more than 70,000 tons of sewage sludge was permitted in 2016 to be disposed within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns River. This is more than 73% of Class B biosolids permitted that year.
  • A sample from a bloom tested Wednesday in Blue Cypress Lake contained the toxin microcystin at a level of 4,700 parts per billion. The World Health Organization considers microcystin levels higher than 2,000 parts per billion to be "very highly hazardous" in recreational contact. See the full story. This is much more than an environmental crisis. It is a human health crisis.
  • An important consideration for the restoration of the Middle St. Johns River Basin is that the majority of the loading to the impaired waterbodies comes from sources outside the watershed. Approximately 96.4% of the total nitrogen (TN) loading and 95% of the total phosphorus (TP) loading enters the impaired waterbodies from the Upper St. Johns River, Econlockhatchee River, and Lake Jesup Basins. Therefore, implementing projects in the watershed alone will not achieve the goals; reductions from the upstream sources must occur before water quality standards can be met.

Right now Blue Cypress Lake, once one of the most pristine lakes in the state, is impacted by green algae making it dangerous for human use and threatening to wildlife.  Based on the visible, measured and unprecedented pollution impacting Blue Cypress Lake, time is of the essence and we strongly request an immediate moratorium of sewage sludge application within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns until a full technical report can be completed that identifies how to best manage sewage sludge disposal in the State of Florida in order to protect Florida’s waters, public investment and human health. 


Legal Victory for Conservation Lands

Legal Victory for Conservation Lands

On June 15, 2018, Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of environmental organizations that the land conservation constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2014 requires funding to be used for land acquisition, restoration and management, not for other purposes.

Earthjustice, Joe Litte of Florida Defenders of the Environment and the plaintiff organizations - Florida Wildlife Federation, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, and St. Johns RIVERKEEPER - filed suit because the state legislature was violating the Water and Land Conservation Amendment by spending funds on unauthorized budget expenses, instead of land acquisition and restoration.   The amendment was overwhelmingly passed in 2014 by over 75% of Florida voters. 

Below are statements from plaintiffs in the lawsuit reacting to the ruling:

Manley Fuller, Plaintiff and President of Florida Wildlife Federation:
“Judge Dodson ruled today that the amendment funds are to be used for new land acquisition management and restoration from the Everglades to the Florida Panhandle! This is what the voters of Florida intended in 2014. The sun was shining in Florida today.”

Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper:
“Protection of Florida’s lands is critical to protecting Florida’s waters. Today’s ruling is a stunning victory for our state’s wild places, rivers, springs, residents and future generations.”

Alisa Coe, Earthjustice attorney:
“Today’s decision is a big victory for the millions of Florida voters who demanded that the legislature reinstate land buying programs for parks, wild lands and the Everglades. Four million Floridians approved a constitutional amendment to devote almost a billion dollars a year to purchasing conservation lands. The legislature and agencies thumbed their noses at the voters by spending the money on other things. This ruling will help protect some of Florida's most beautiful and environmentally important areas for generations to come.

In 2014, an overwhelming three out of four Florida voters approved the Land and Water Acquisition Amendment to the state constitution—it was the most popular item on the entire statewide ballot that year. Today’s ruling means that the state must honor the voters’ will to preserve our precious natural resources through conservation.”

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director:
“Judge Dodson’s ruling today is a landmark decision making it clear that amendments to Florida’s constitution are orders by the people; they aren’t suggestions which the Legislature can decide to ignore. After four years of blatant misappropriation of taxpayers’ money, the Legislature has been forced by the Florida Courts to obey the voters mandate that it use a dedicated source of state funds to preserve and protect Florida’s natural lands.” 

River Rising Town Hall Series

River Rising Town Hall Series photo credit: Florida Times-Union

Join St. Johns RIVERKEEPER at the upcoming River Rising: Town Hall Series to learn about rising waters in the St. Johns, how decades of dredging has increased water levels and storm surge, and what Jacksonville and coastal communities need to do to become more resilient.  

Upcoming Town Hall Meetings:

Thursday, November 1 @ 6pm
Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
1025 Museum Cir, Jacksonville, FL 32207

(6:00pm Meet & Mingle; 6:30pm Town Hall)

Wednesday, January 9 @ 6:30pm
Beaches Branch Library Community Room
600 3rd St., Neptune Beach, FL 32266

(6:30pm Meet & Mingle; 7pm Town Hall)

Learn more about the impacts of the dredging project and
Sign Our Online Petition demanding mitigation for a more reslient St. Johns River!

Read more about St. Johns RIVERKEEPER's concerns that the current dredging project will increase water levels, storm surge and the likelihood of flooding.

Read, As the Ocean Creeps In, a special report by the Florida Times-Union about how decades of dredging projects to deepen the St. Johns River have brought the ocean to Jacksonville's doorstep.  

The town hall meetings are open and free to the public. Experts will speak and answer questions from the audience. 

As demonstrated by Hurricane Irma and the historic flooding that occurred, we are now more at risk than ever before and important action steps must be taken to better prepare for a future of rising waters in the St. Johns River.

“Sea level rise and a deeper channel have no doubt resulted in higher water levels and storm surge in the river, increasing the risk of flooding and sewage spills in the St. Johns,” states Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, “The current plan to dredge the St. Johns an additional 7 feet deeper will only make these problem worse.”

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, even smaller, “high frequency” storms could increase storm surge and the maximum water levels in the St. Johns River by an additional 12% due to the current dredging project.

“Where I live, inches matter”, said Dot Matthias of the Northside Civic Association. “It was only a matter of inches that saved some folks from thousands of dollars in damage while causing others to flood. If we can better protect our community from severe financial, emotional and physical harm in the future, why wouldn’t we?”

In addition to flooded homes and businesses, Hurricane Irma caused severe damage to public infrastructure and left in its wake a toxic soup of sewage, chemicals, debris, and litter – all of which presented potential health risks to the public.

“It is critical that have a community conversation about these issues and act now,” states Rinaman. “Otherwise, we will become even more vulnerable as waters continue to rise, flooding becomes more frequent, public infrastructure fails, and our river is further degraded by more sewage and pollution. “

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Vote for the River: Candidate Survey Responses
Vote for the River: Candidate Survey Responses
Florida Waterkeepers Unite to Protect Florida’s Waters
Florida Waterkeepers Unite to Protect Florida’s Waters
Temporary Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Land Application
Temporary Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Land Application
Legal Victory for Conservation Lands
Legal Victory for Conservation Lands

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