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After a whirlwind day visiting both coasts to announce sweeping measures to address the state’s environmental woes, Florida’s new governor demanded water managers overseeing efforts to fix the Everglades step down.
At an afternoon meeting in Stuart, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wanted the nine-member board at the South Florida Water Management District to resign because he believed they failed to understand the toll endured by communities by repeated hammering from dirty lake water released into coastal rivers.
“I just want good people who are willing to do the right thing,” he said.
Board members infuriated the new governor in November when they voted to extend a lease to sugar farmers two days after the election. News of the vote was posted the night before the meeting, with less than 12 hours notice. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, who headed up DeSantis’ environmental transition team, raced down to the meeting and urged board members to put off the vote, but they refused.
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At the time, chairman Federico Fernandez, a Miami attorney, said they were obliged to extend the lease by the state law that authorized the reservoir. The law, passed under former Gov. Rick Scott, which also dramatically reduced the reservoir from 60,000 acres to 17,000 acres, said sugar farmer should be allowed to continue farming until their activity interfered with construction.
On Thursday, DeSantis said he recommended the board’s removal after Mast recommended it. DeSantis said he sent letters to board members on Thursday asking for their resignations.
“We want to make sure we have everybody in the boat rowing the same way,” he said.
DeSantis said he also plans on holding back many last-minute appointments to state positions made by Scott, a move viewed as an insult to the incoming governor.
“For all the midnight appointments that require Senate confirmation, I’m going to be pulling them back,” he said. “Some of the people in that batch are people I know and respect and you may see me reappoint them … but we’re going to be pulling them all back.”
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich