Water quality is becoming a major talking point in the upcoming race for Congress in Southwest Florida's District 19. The GOP candidates include businessman Francis Rooney of Naples, Sanibel City Council member Chauncey Goss, and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino of Palm City.
All three candidates attended a forum Thursday sponsored by the Collier County Republican Club at Tiburon Golf Resort in Naples.
"You're not going to have a healthy economy without a healthy water and marine environment in Southwest Florida," said Rooney. He believes that reducing the murky water discharges from Lake Okeechobee has to start at the source.
"Pressing right now is fixing the dike," Rooney said. "If they could get the dike built up a little more, the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) would be prohibited from making these massive discharges into the Caloosahatchee, and tearing up our estuaries."
Goss sees the brown water from Lake O washing up on the shores of Sanibel, and says that the economic impacts could affect everything from the construction, real estate and banking businesses - not to mention tourism.
"It's disgusting. It affects all of us," Goss said. "We have to build some reservoirs south (of Lake Okeechobee) and we have to treat this like it's the real problem that it is, instead of forgetting about it."
"What happens is, we get all worked up about it, we profess outrage, and then we forget about it until it rains again," he added.
Bongino said that if the government doesn't increase money for stormwater treatment areas, and send some of Okeechobee's water south to the Everglades, the economic damage could last for decades.
"This is an economic catastrophe," Bongino said. "I'm tired of all the talk on this. We need a no-excuses attitude, get all the stakeholders at the table, start putting out a series of metrics and timetables, and get it done."
All three GOP candidates stressed that if elected, they would be committed to fighting terrorism.
This was the first candidates forum for the District 19 race.