Tampa Bay Times

Editorial: Time for environment, public to have voice on South Florida Water Management District board

Taking a bold opening shot at overhauling policy on the environment, Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked the entire membership of the South Florida Water Management District governing board to resign. The largest of Florida’s five water management districts, the SFWMD covers 16 counties and 8.1 million residents from Orlando to the Florida Keys. The district is responsible for improving flood control, water supply and water quality, and it oversees efforts to restore the Florida Everglades, the largest environmental project in U.S. history.

The governor is right that leadership of the state’s largest water management district is in need of a reboot. The question is, how big a change to make?

Our advice to the governor: The sky’s the limit.

DeSantis shouldn’t restrict his search for replacements to campaign supporters, private-sector potentates and political hacks. The members of the district’s new governing board should represent a much wider range of backgrounds, interests and viewpoints by including environmentalists, scientists and other experts who have a stake in the agency’s ability to manage Florida’s most precious resource -- water.

RELATED: Editorial: Encouraging moves from Gov. DeSantis on clean water, the Everglades and sea level rise

Quality candidates for the board aren’t hard to find. Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus is a Republican with a long record of environmental protection and interest in water quality management. Maggy Hurchalla is a veteran Martin County environmentalist who is familiar with the district’s operations and water policy priorities. State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a Broward County Democrat, would bring not only bipartisanship but a deep knowledge of climate change as a legislator and county commissioner. All three are folks who would bring a perspective and give voice to a wider audience of South Floridians that has been missing from the SFWMD board.

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