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28th Everglades Coalition Conference Kicks Off In Coral Gables

The 28th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference is in full swing in Coral Gables Florida. It’s a time for all those concerned about the future of the River of Grass to engage in discussions about restoration plans.

During Thursday’s reception, Governor Rick Scott shocked everyone in the crowd by showing up and doing a brief meet and greet. A spokesperson for Scott said due to a scheduling conflict, Scott was unable to attend the conference in person, but it just so happened that one of his non-public meetings, was in or nearby the Biltmore Hotel where the conference is being held. Scott said he’s happy about the latest Everglades restoration deal to clean up water pollution in the Glades, which he personally pitched in Washington.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we got an historic settlement done with the Everglades restoration project, we’re going to be funding the project over the next 12 years and we got a settlement done with the justice, Corp of Engineers, EPA and Interior, so it’s going to both increase the flow of water and the quality of water,” Scott said.

Everglades Coalition Conference Co-Chair, Dawn Shireffs said she was surprised by Scott’s visit but she’s happy he made the effort.

“Certainly having him to be able to stop by tonight and having him talk to many of us that are working Everglades restoration on the ground, shows that his support is unwavering,” Shireffs said.

But that support didn’t always seem so unwavering. Scott broke a long standing tradition, where according to the Tampa Bay Times, since 1987, every time Florida has sworn in a new governor, one of his first public appearances has been to deliver a speech at the Annual Everglades Coalition Conference.

Scott didn’t follow through, but Shireffs said his absence was understandable.

“He was able to join us last year and provide a key note address, the first year of his office it was actually the weekend of his inauguration so there was a conflict of scheduling, he wasn’t able to join us for that one and then in addition to appearing tonight he made a short vignette video that we will be playing during the coalition conference,” Shireffs pointed out.

When it comes to the decade’s long effort to restore the River of Grass, Everglades Foundation CEO, Eric Eikenberg said he’s not satisfied with where things are now.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied. I don’t think we are ever going to see ultimate restoration just based on the developments in South Florida, Southwest Florida, the dikes and the levies and the canals that have been constructed. But what we are doing is looking forward for restoration; this is a generational project,”

Eikenberg said it comes down to pushing for restoration projects and advocating for completion of those projects. On Friday officials will highlight the C1-11 spreader canal project. The canal serves to channel flood water away from western Miami-Dade County during the rainy wet Season. 

Secretary Ken Salazar will be delivering the conference keynote address, tonight.