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Activists predict water manager will rise to the occasion

Veteran regulator Ernie Marks takes the reins of the South Florida Water Management District at a pivotal time, says Audubon of Florida’s Eric Draper.

Before he became the district’s Everglades policy coordinator last year, Marks held key positions with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Draper says Marks’ strong technical background and steady demeanor will be sorely tested. The agency manages 1.5 million acres of land in 16 counties from Orlando to Key West -- and budgets are always tight.

“We’re in a crisis situation with water in South Florida. We move from draught to storms in a matter of months anymore and the infrastructure to handle that is decaying, it’s beyond repair in some cases, and in serious need of investment.”

Draper is confident Marks is up to constructing the massive reservoir lawmakers approved earlier this year to mitigate pollution in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

“IF anyone knows how to actually work with the Army Corps of Engineers to get the thing done, Ernie can do that. Because he has been involved in advancing a number of Everglades restoration projects over the past several years.”

Marks replaces Pete Antonacci, a Scott Administration insider who is leaving to head the governor’s business recruitment arm, Enterprise Florida.