EXPERTISE

  • Environmental Resource Restoration
  • Water Quality Restoration and Protection
  • Water Supply and Resource Development
  • State and Federal Water Policy

  • Full Profile

    Ernie Marks is an accomplished water resources professional with over 15 years of experience specializing in water quality and restoration; ecological and natural resource preservation; flood control, water sourcing, supply, and security; coastal resiliency and saline intrusion; and sustainable management practices. He has held several high-profile leadership roles for public sector agencies including the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Ernie is recognized for his technical competency, environmental and regulatory knowledge, and policy and program management experience – with a network of strategic partnerships that spans the public and private sectors.

    EDUCATION

    • B.S., Environmental Economics and Management, Magna cum laude, University of Rhode Island, South Kingston, RI, 2003

    CERTIFICATION & TRAINING

    • Licensed Florida Real Estate Associate

    KEY EXPERIENCE

    Industry Experience

    Water Quality Restoration: Everglades Restoration Strategies – State of Florida

    Director

    In his role as Ecosystems Director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Ernie served as a key technical, regulatory, and policy person in reaching consensus between the State of Florida and the United States Environmental Protection Agency on an $880 million restoration plan to achieve the phosphorus water quality standard established for America’s Everglades.

    As Director of Everglades Policy and as Executive Director, Ernie led technical teams at the South Florida Water Management District to plan, construct, and operate several of these projects that, when completed, will result in more than 6,500 acres of new stormwater treatment areas and 116,000 acre-feet of additional water storage through construction of flow equalization basins (FEBs), or large surface water storage areas. These massive water resource development projects, in tandem with existing features, create a dynamic water storage and treatment system to achieve optimal water quality treatment performance.

    Water Quality, Quantity, Timing and Distribution: Central Everglades Planning Project – State of Florida

    Director

    In his role as Ecosystems Director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Ernie led the policy, planning, and regulatory efforts for the development of the Central Everglades Planning Project, which incorporated several features of the historic 50/50 partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The $1.8 billion plan builds upon the State’s water quality restoration efforts through development of project components that focus restoration on more natural flows into and through the central and southern Everglades. More natural water flow, depth, and duration into and within the Central Everglades, Everglades National Park, and Florida Bay. Completion of these projects will increase storage, treatment, and conveyance of water south of Lake Okeechobee; restoring sheetflow within the central Everglades and managing seepage from Everglades National Park in order to protect urban and agricultural areas to the east from flooding.

    As Executive Director with the South Florida Water Management District, Ernie led the efforts to implement the first component of the Central Everglades Planning Project, the S-333N water control structure in western Miami-Dade County. The new structure is adjacent to the existing S-333 structure, which releases clean fresh water south from the State-managed Everglades Protection Area into Everglades National Park. This additional structure will nearly double the amount of clean water that can be moved out of Water Conservation Area 3A and into Everglades National Park to about 2,500 cubic feet per second.

    Water Storage: Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area – State of Florida

    Executive Director

    As Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District, Ernie led the District’s efforts to accelerate the planning of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir. A component of the state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the $1.8 billion project will send clean water south to the Southern Everglades and Florida Bay while reducing damaging discharge events from Lake Okeechobee to the eastern and western estuaries. The massive reservoir will hold approximately 240,000 acre-feet of water and include a newly constructed treatment wetland, known as a stormwater treatment area, to provide additional water quality benefits in conjunction with existing treatment areas. In response to the direction from the Florida legislature and Governor, this effort was accelerated under District efforts through a provision in federal law allowing a sponsor to develop and deliver a project directly to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for approval.  Though attempted by several states, the District was the first to successfully navigate the federal process, ultimately leading to Congressional authorization of the project in the Water Resources Development Act of 2018.

    Wetland and Surface Water Restoration: Florida Bay Project – South Florida Water Management District

    Director of Everglades Policy and Executive Director

    Ernie led the efforts of the South Florida Water Management District in implementing an innovative plan to deliver needed fresh water to Florida Bay. Periodic droughts in 1987 and 2015 left the waters of Florida Bay too saline, contributing to vast seagrass die-offs. This $9 million effort was a critical first step in helping reduce salinity levels in the bay.  The project now provides the largest inflow of freshwater, aside from direct rainfall, and promotes the recovery of seagrasses killed during a severe drought in 2015, providing critical relief to eastern Florida Bay while larger Everglades restoration projects are being completed.

    Land Management: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – South Florida Water Management District

    Executive Director

    In his role as Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District, Ernie worked closely with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to negotiate a new license agreement. Failure to address exotic species expansion threatened a 68-year partnership with the Refuge over severely increasing expansion of Lygodium or Old World Climbing Fern, which threatened the ecology of an area which the State of Florida had invested billions of dollars to restore. The new license agreement shifted management efforts over to the District while requiring annual funding minimums, establishing incentive-based extension options for funding above annual minimums, and a massive expansion of public recreation throughout the Refuge to be managed in cooperation with FWC.  These efforts resulted in an extension of this long-lasting partnership, one that will continue to provide several million dollars in eco-tourism for the local area and ensure appropriate land management techniques are consistent with the overall South Florida restoration goals.

    Publications

    • Conditions Affecting the Growth and Zoosporulation of the Protistan Parasite QPX in Culture, Journal of Shellfish Disease Research, 2001 (co-author).
    • South Florida Environmental Report, 2006-2017 (author/reviewer).
    • Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Adaptive Management Integration Guide, June 2011, (contributor).
    • Listed as reviewer/contributor on several Everglades restoration program implementation documents.