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Gone, but not forgotten
May 10, 2019

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Political coinage is too often minted with a two-sided truism: Will Roger's "The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office" and its counterpart, "out of sight, out of mind."

The summer of 2018 is proving to be the exception to this bill of goods.

Water quality remains a forefront concern at the local, state and federal level - which is exactly where it should be for those of us who live and breathe in Southwest Florida.

Literally.

Some good news?

While organizations accurately point to a plethora of problems with legislation passed or not by the Florida State Legislature on the water quality front, money to address a key component of a federal/state fix of environmental issues related to Everglades restoration did get promised support with $322.6 million approved and another $33 million earmarked for the Florida Forever Land Acquisition Program.

Meanwhile, close to home, Congressman Francis Rooney held a roundtable session this week. More than 20 federal, local and state officials attended to offer insight for the development of a coordinated, multi-level, multi-agency emergency response to "harmful algal blooms" such as the red tide and blue-green algae blooms that decimated our beaches and the Caloosahatchee, and its offshoot canals, respectively last summer.

The group met Tuesday at Florida Gulf Coast University with the ultimate goal being a multi-pronged response plan similar to the one at the ready when an area is impacted by a hurricane.

A separate, but related, meeting is set for today at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.

Today's noon session, unlike the Tuesday's meeting, will be open to the public and area media. It also will be broadcast live on Congressman Rooney's Facebook page.

We encourage residents to attend or tune in.

Rooney has emphasized this is - and will continue to be - a collective effort.

"I am thankful that Southwest Florida has many partners working to address the water issues facing our community," Congressman Rooney said in a prepared statement issued after the first session. "Our algae issues will require much work and ongoing communication to resolve and our community is vital to our success. We all have a shared interest in protecting our community from the damaging effects of HABs, and in working together to fix our water quality challenges."

Today's meeting is part of that effort, he added.

"As part of our ongoing process, we will host another roundtable this Friday with local, community and nonprofit organizations to continue the discussion about the damaging impacts on Southwest Florida caused by these HABs. This is an opportunity to discuss the short and long-term health effects related to exposure to HABs and other health issues that could arise for human and sea life," Congressman Rooney continued.

Well and good.

We thank the congressman for his efforts and we also thank the community leaders and environmental groups here in Southwest Florida for keeping the water quality pot on the front burner where we hope it will continue to boil until resolution is in hand.

For make no mistake, while neither our beaches nor river are in now crisis and dry-season mitigation efforts have taken place, we must remain vigilant and continue to demand long-term solutions to an issue that has been years in the making.

No one wants a repeat - not this summer, not next summer, not ever.

Not here in Southwest Florida.

Not on Florida's east coast, which experienced a major algal outbreak in 2017 following similar nutrient-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee into its river, the St. Lucie.

Last summer's crisis has passed.

But it is not forgotten.

It is up to all of us to see that out of sight does not become out of mind.

- Breeze editorial

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