Captain Chris Whitman Addresses Chamber

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Captains For Clean Water

“I was born in Southwest Florida and grew up on Sanibel,” began Captain Chris Whitman, co-founder of “Captains For Clean Water” with Captain Daniel Andrews, to the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Charley’s Boathouse on Thursday, April 11. “I have been a fishing guy all my life, but about 20 years ago, the health of the water and quality of the ecosystem kept getting worse and worse, until finally three years ago Captain Andrews and I called a meeting of area fishing boat captains to talk about if there were anything we could do to help the situation, as people like us with their own small fishing businesses had no voice in water quality. We expected about a dozen people and were blown away when around 350 turned out!”

Soon thereafter, they organized Captains For Clean Water, “and the next thing you knew, we are a strong voice in Tallahassee and Washington, DC, and all across Florida, with industry leaders like ‘Getty Coolers’ joining our cause, along with political leaders like Mayor Kevin Ruane from Sanibel, and we are achieving goals! Even though we only formed three years ago, Captains For Clean Water has an outreach of between 5 to 6 million people and growing. That is one of the reasons why, even though we have a great deal yet to accomplish, we are now optimistic about clean water in Florida’s immediate future; we were not just a short while ago, about Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, Florida Bay or our very livelihood.”

Captain Whitman explained that the recent water quality crisis is an “unusual problem, because generally when you have a catastrophe, you first must find a fix, but we’ve had the fix now for about 20 years, with 68 different water projects in the plan. What we needed, however, was the political will to make those happen, specifically through appropriate funding, as there is no one silver bullet, and the only way to do that is through voters being fully engaged and now, through your help and participation, we are in a good place. New Florida Governor Ron DeSantis brought forward an aggressive budget to repair our water issues, and the State Legislature seems to follow his lead, and are only about $10 million apart from fully funding his proposals. We have already seen huge changes, with the Governor replacing the entire South Florida Water Management District Board and the new members bringing in a new Executive Staff.”

No Crying Wolf

He invited the audience to sign up on-line to participate in their Calls to Action at captainsforcleanwater.org. “It only takes 30 seconds to do, as you are the ones who make a difference. A good example is the Federal Government in its recent Clean Water Bill. The Office of Management & Budget did not include Everglades Agricultural Area projects and we took action and so did you. Over the next two days, they received 66,000 emails and 24 hours later, it was in the Bill. Our governmental leaders know Captains For Clean Water does not cry wolf!”

Captain Whitman reflected upon his organization’s sudden success: “When we first began Captains For Clean Water, we did not think that five years from now we would be where we are today, and how fast things change for the good once you get traction. Our goals are already changing, because we are checking off boxes and moving on to new things, to make more goals happen quicker. It is exciting and grueling all at the same time, but I enjoy it. Water quality affects every single one of us and it will take every single one of us to not only push for the changes we need today, but to pass these lessons down to the next generation of leaders to continue this, to keep their eye on the prize, to produce long-term permanent solutions. Our tax dollars will repair the biggest water management system there is, while maintaining our health and economy, so that 50 or 100 years from now, our kids or grandkids will look back and say that ‘We Did It!’”

 

By Gary Mooney
gary@fortmyersbeach.news