Gov. DeSantis touts new Florida website. There are already concerns

A new state website vows to help with our water crisis. The governor said on Tuesday you could use it to check on blue-green algae, red tide and nutrient issues in the Caloosahatchee River. But, the site has only been up for about a day and there are already concerns.

A “neat, new initiative” that Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday is a website called ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov. The governor said it would be “a one-stop-shop for water quality information about our state’s water bodies.”

But some have called the timeliness of the information on the website into question. Dr. Serge Thomas, an associate professor at the Florida Gulf Coast University Water School, said he has the same problem as the expensive government website as he has with his own.

The website has some recent red tide samples on our coast, but nutrient and chlorophyll results in the Caloosahatchee date back to November 2018. Thomas believes part of the delay could include making sure the numbers are accurate.

In a statement, the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, said the following:

“This website is a huge step forward. For the first time ever, we are consolidating data and information from multiple sources and putting it in one place to communicate the most relevant information to the public, which was informed initially by stakeholder research. It is true that South Florida Water Management District and other partners sample at more sites, but there is a process to get that data uploaded and there is a balance between having the most up-to-date data and having data from sites that are regularly sampled. We intend to provide as much information that we can that is also meaningful to the public.

“This is only the first phase of the website and is one step of many to come. The conversation we’re are seeing, is exactly the conversation this website was intended to drive. Based on these conversations we will be able to continually improve this website. For example, as a result of this dialogue, yesterday the South Florida Water Management District committed to improving their process to increase their reporting frequency of nutrient data to monthly.

“The sites reflected on the map are sentinel stations in the 3 featured water bodies. These stations were chosen because they are sampled frequently and reported to DEP’s Watershed Information Monitoring Network (WIN) and were actively sampled in 2019 for all three parameters of interest (nitrogen, phosphorus, and chlorophyll a). DEP and the water management district are committed to ensuring that the data reported on the website is an accurate representation of water quality and additional sites will be added as necessary to meet that goal. Nutrient data monitoring and reporting schedules are variable, with sampling frequency ranging from annually to weekly, depending on the site. To ensure that the data reflects the most current information, the South Florida Water Management District committed to improving their process to increase their reporting frequency of nutrient data.

“We are committed to continuous improvement, transparency and accountability. As more citizens use the site and more feedback is received, we will enhance the site to provide the information our citizens need to feel protected and reassured that we are committed to water quality improvement.”

The governor’s office has not returned our request for comment nor answered our questions.

“Nothing is really perfect the first time,” Thomas said. And perhaps, the website brings us another step closer to cleaning up our environment.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Michael Mora
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