By: Ali Schmitz, Treasure Coast Newspapers
Florida water advocates have hoped for several years that lawmakers will address water quality issues plaguing the state. For years, environmentalists deemed each annual legislative session to be "the year of water."
Lawmakers promised to clean Florida’s polluted waters by securing funding, finishing restoration projects and addressing pollution sources. Yet — aside from the EAA reservoir in 2017 — each session has ended with few major changes.
2018 saw one of the worst environmental catastrophes ever — dueling toxic red tide and toxic blue-green algae on both coasts and in Indian River County's Blue Cypress Lake.
Now environmentalists across the state wonder if this will be the year that the Legislature heavily focuses on improving the state's water quality.
Legislators in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle are proposing wide-ranging bills that focus on funding water quality and treatment projects, but few bills have been filed that address pollution or nutrient runoff.
Legislators will also have to compete for funding for water quality projects in their districts, as more municipalities and counties are seeking the state's help in responding to algal blooms.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted environmental funding on a statewide level, but Treasure Coast clean-water advocates are particularly worried that no environmental leaders have emerged in the Legislature in the wake of Sen. Joe Negron’s retirement.
Sen. Gayle Harrell said she can be that person, and she campaigned heavily on her environmental record during her 2018 bid to win Negron's seat. Her office did not reply to an interview request for this story.
Sen. Debbie Mayfield, who represents Indian River County, chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government, which funds water projects statewide. Her office also did not reply to an interview request…