Checkmate: South Florida water board feud with DeSantis ends with no-show at meeting

A feud between South Florida water managers appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s new governor ended quickly Thursday on a procedural matter: lack of a quorum.

Because DeSantis’ office failed to complete necessary paperwork, new member Chauncey Goss said he would be unable to vote on matters so did not attend. Broward developer Ron Bergeron, who was also appointed by DeSantis and has done work for the district, is still reviewing potential conflicts with state ethics officials and was not expected to be able to participate.

The board needed five members for a quorum. Only four attended — two who planned on resigning after the meeting and two whose terms will expire next month.

Without a quorum, the board was unable to take any action, including voting to approve a $524 million contract to finish the C-43 reservoir, a sprawling Hendry County project that will be capable of holding 170,000-acre feet of water to help reduce unwanted discharges to the Caloosahatchee river from the lake. The meeting continued, but was limited to staff issues and reports that didn’t require a vote.

“My paperwork was not done,” said Goss, who said he attended the staff briefing in advance of the meeting. “I knew that everything was contingent on the governor’s office moving that forward.”

Goss, who was appointed to represent Southwest Florida, said he’d hoped to attend but “they’re going to move at the speed they’re going to move,” he said. “They’ve got a lot going on up there.”

Before Thursday’s meeting, all but four members of the nine-member board appointed by Scott had resigned at DeSantis’ request. The board angered the incoming governor when they voted two days after a close election, and while votes were still being counted, to extend leases to sugar farmers on land targeted for a 17,000-acre Everglades reservoir. The reservoir is aimed at helping reduce polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee that led to widespread blue green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River last year and likely worsened a massive red tide off the Gulf Coast.