Water Quality And State Testing Remain Top Issues For Lee County

Jan 15, 2015

Water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Credit Dale / Creative Commons

Water quality and K-12 testing are among the biggest concerns for Lee County groups and residents as the county’s delegation met on Tuesday to discuss the area’s needs ahead of the Legislation session.

Water Woes

Projects aimed at cleaning up the area’s water remain a big priority.

Environmental groups and property owners want lawmakers to continue funding projects that send water from Lake Okeechobee south.

Right now, excess water is sent through estuaries east and west of the lake, which has been an ongoing problem for southwest Florida.

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R- Lehigh Acres, is the chairman of the Lee County Legislative Delegation. He said even though these aren’t new problems, residents want the Legislature to tackle them.

“All these projects are multi-year, multi-phase, multi-million dollar projects. They are looking to the legislature to help offset and defray the cost and speed along the process on that,” he said.

Caldwell said groups also wanted the state to update oil and gas laws.

New oil extraction methods were a hot topic last year after a Texas-based oil company used an unapproved procedure in Collier County.

Caldwell said he is certain bills pertaining to oil and gas will come before lawmakers this year.

State Testing

K-12 testing was another major concern highlighted during the meeting. Local groups and residents said they want state lawmakers to address the number of standardized tests students are taking.

Caldwell said parents are also concerned about the stakes attached to these tests.

“I think you heard a similar refrain as we have heard the past year, which is parents want to ensure that they have the final decision in their children’s education-- in as much as they don’t feel they have the right amount of control,” he explained. “They want to see that put back in their hands.”

Last year, Lee County’s school board opted out of statewide testing at the behest of frustrated parents.

However, school board members quickly reversed their decision fearing jeopardized state funding.

Caldwell said he and other lawmakers will be addressing these issues during the upcoming Legislative session.