SFWMD Board Chair Talks Water
Periodically, The Island Sand Paper asks a community leader “6 Questions.” In this edition, Chauncey Goss, the new Chair of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), discusses water quality and quantity projects, as well as the reconstituted SFWMD Board.
Goss is the founder and managing partner of Goss Practical Solutions that provides federal fiscal policy analysis and budget forecasting. As a long-time Southwest Florida resident, he first became involved with water as Executive Director of the Gasparilla Island Conservation & Improvement Association in the early 1990s. Goss grew up and still lives on Sanibel with his wife and three sons and previously served as an elected member of Sanibel City Council. To contact him, email email@example.com.
#1: What is your short list of goals for the current SFWMD Board?
The current goal is to ensure we follow the priorities of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and help implement those whenever possible, though of course the Florida Legislature has to play a big role in that. Situations the SFWMD can control involve the construction of the C-43 Reservoir in Hendry County, to store and clean water from Lake Okeechobee to eventually release down the Caloosahatchee River, so that makes the reservoir’s clean water component especially crucial.
Another priority is the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir, and other prime issues include stormwater treatment and ways to reduce the number of septic tanks. We must coordinate all these with the recommendations from the Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, to implement their initiatives, and we must be there to assist local governments to attain and maintain clean water.
#2: Without being critical of any of your predecessor SFWMD Boards, how do you hope this version will be different in its service to the public?
The main issue for Governor DeSantis and myself is that we make all our meetings and proceedings completely transparent to the public in every possible way. We want the SFWMD Board to be above reproach and be accountable to the public, to put their needs first, and not special interests, so everything we do and all the decisions we ultimately must make are in accordance with Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Governor DeSantis made it abundantly clear that our main priority is that everything we do must benefit the citizens and taxpayers of the State of Florida.
#3: There are a lot of water quality components that are or soon will be underway or under construction, like the C-43 reservoir and the EAA. Which do you find the most personally exciting and how will they work in sync to benefit our area’s water supply?
What I find the most exciting is that we are starting to dig dirt on many of these projects, as we just had the groundbreaking ceremony for the C-43 Reservoir! Once you begin doing that, the sooner they will be complete and the more all the water quality projects will start to work together in unison to provide real solutions and that is when you will finally see significant progress in addressing water quality and quantity. Even once these major components are complete, our work is still not done, as we need to measure and monitor them to determine what is and is not working, and the knowledge we attain is every bit as important from the clean water standpoint as the money and material we use to build them.
Other aspects that excite me are the construction of clean water initiatives like meadows and wetlands to remove phosphorous and nitrogen from the water as it progresses through the system, as things like that did not receive a high priority before Governor DeSantis. As you know, Governor DeSantis this year proposed the biggest budget ever for water quality, including addressing clean water projects, so these are an emphasis for the SFWMD Board.
#4: Even with those projects, in your opinion, what areas are we still missing or not addressing or not considering strongly enough to improve water quality?
To me, there are four main components that we are trying to figure out: water quality, water quantity, timing and distribution, so that we can put clean water into the system when we most need it, and can store water for when we don’t, and that needs to be the primary focus.
While many people think it is all about engineering, I believe a lot of it is about education. It is making sure that we identify pollution hot spots and not only treating them but discovering what makes them so and halting the source point pollutant. It is about educating communities that still utilize septic tanks and convince them that those are still serious problems and getting them to get on sewer lines and helping them to find the funding to do so, rather than just employing band-aids or glazing over the problem. Crucially, we need to ensure that agricultural interests not only correctly employ Best Management Action Plans but that we have enough monitoring and scientific analysis to determine that not only are they doing so, but the methods they are using actually work.
#5: When Governor DeSantis began to reconstitute the SFWMD, did you have any idea you were under consideration, what was your reaction when you received the offer & what do you and he hope that Chauncey Goss will bring to the Board?
Yes, I did know that I was under consideration, if for no other reason than I applied for one of the seats! When I submitted back in January, I had to demonstrate my qualifications for the job, and I thought I had a pretty good resume. Despite that, I was surprised when the Governor’s Office contacted me, then even more so when I learned I was one of the people Governor DeSantis chose to serve! As for what he and I both hope that I can bring to the table is to lead the way toward the transparency of the process and, of course, results that achieve clean water quality and quantity so that all of our priorities will serve the public first and best.
#6: For you, so far, what is the most personally rewarding aspect of being the Chair of the SFWMD Board?
I hope that some of your readers attended the SFWMD Board Meeting we recently held at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), because they saw what a great and inquisitive Board we now have, and working with these qualified and committed people makes my job easier. I cannot say enough about the SFWMD Staff either, under the direction of our terrific Executive Director, Drew Bartlett. He and his team don’t understand the concept of “Monday through Friday, 9 to 5,” as they always seem to be on the job, no matter when I call or what I ask!
If you came to our November SFWMD Meeting at FGCU, you saw about 40 members of Clewiston High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter, and we were at a university full of young people, and I have three sons at home, so everything we do is for those future generations, and that is my biggest reward!