Tuesday, September 03, 2013

For first time ever, protesters take their protest to the heart of Big Sugar ... by gimleteye

The vast pollution from Lake Okeechobee has had horrendous effects, again, on both coasts of Florida. The South Florida water management system, organized to protect suburbs and Big Sugar, finally drew protestors to the heart of the place that produces the toxic profits: lands owned by Big Sugar. Clewiston is a far cry from where the billionaire sugar barons live in Palm Beach and Coral Gables. The town's past is deeply rooted in the traditions of the deep south. For these protesters, venturing on a holiday weekend from both coasts of Florida, the demonstration was sure to attract the attention of Florida legislators who have faithfully toed the Big Sugar line for decades. The protesters bravely took their complaints against the pollution of waterways up and down the coast to the heart of Big Sugar for the first time. The event was respectful and speakers put the responsibility for fixing the water management disasters right where they belong: on state legislators. That is history; watching the protesters organize on the home turf of their adversary: Big Sugar.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral


Anonymous said...

I'll bet Joe Klock is figuring out a way to get his clients all riled up, over this.

Anonymous said...

Where is Marco Rubio on this?

Anonymous said...

Hundreds of protesters rally in U.S. Sugar's hometown

Sep. 1, 2013

Written by Chad Gillis

Hundreds of people from across South Florida gathered near the U.S. Sugar Corp. refinery in Clewiston on Sunday to speak out about water pollution that’s plagued much of the state this summer.

Called the Sugarland Rally, Sunday’s event featured environmental activists, elected officials, high school students and business owners.

“It’s a fight to unite the east coast and the west coast and all of Florida, really,” said organizer Crystal Lucas. “Clean water is a Florida fight. There are people in the north fighting for clean springs, people in the south fighting for Florida Bay, and people on the west coast fighting for the Caloosahatchee River, and here for Lake Okeechobee.”

Rallies like these have become more common this summer across much of the state as high rainfall totals have flushed algae blooms and toxic waters from the center of the state to the coasts, where the majority of South Florida’s population lives.

The Sugarland Rally took place four days after Gov. Rick Scott announced $90 million in funding to help alleviate excess water and pollution in Lake Okeechobee.

Similar events on the Eastern Seaboard have drawn thousands of people, although demonstrations have garnered little support on the western coast.

Jo Neeson, of Jenson Beach, said the lack of representation for Southwest Florida is obvious at public support rallies and during government meetings, such as Sen. Joe Negron’s hearings recently in Stuart.

“We don’t hear a lot from the west coast,” Neeson said. “We need you guys.”

Water pollution is not new in South Florida. The system has been ailing for about a century, since developers and the Army Corps of Engineers artificially dropped Lake Okeechobee levels 6 or 7 feet to drain the Everglades. The canals and water control structures send too much water too fast toward both coasts, and Everglades National Park and other preserves are sometimes left too dry to flourish.

The altered flows have caused massive sea grass kills on both coasts.

“I literally saw a manatee come out of the water to eat yard grass because there’s no sea grass to eat.” Neeson said. “We had to literally help him back into the water.”

Neeson said he’d like to see the state and federal governments use eminent domain to force agriculture companies to sell their land for preservation and flooding.

Lake Okeechobee levels are kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level, according to the Army Corps’ latest water schedule. Historically, Lake Okeechobee’s surface was more around 22 to 24 feet above sea level, according to historians and Army Corps documents. (cont.)

Anonymous said...

Lake levels, since the 1920s, have been managed mostly to prevent flooding in farming towns south of Okeechobee. Hurricanes decades ago flooded several towns on the lake’s rim, killing thousands and ruining farmland.

The same would happen today if too much water is allowed to build up in the lake, said Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor.

“U.S. Sugar gets a black eye, for a lot of reasons,” Taylor said after she spoke at the rally. “But they donated the land we’re on today. We shouldn’t be pointing fingers at this point.”

When asked if the solution were as simple as buying out farming towns and restoring the natural flows, Taylor said: “It wouldn’t work. People moved here because they want to live here. You can’t give me enough money to relocate. There’s not enough money in the world to replace my memories of growing up here. You would have to find new friends, and a new church. That’s a major part of my life.”

John G. Heim, of Fort Myers Beach, made the two-hour drive to show his support for cleaning up Florida’s polluted waterways.

“I call it a toxic slough” Heim said of the water near his home. “It’s a very serious description. Our tourism is dying, our chance to take our kids to the beach is dying. The east coast has taken a 100 percent proactive approach toward the problems (by holding rallies and protests). The people on the west coast need to understand that this is going to hit us in the face. I was the only protestor when Gov. Scott was in town (Wednesday). I expect Southwest Florida to be more vocal. Where is Southwest Florida for Florida?”

Anonymous said...

Eminent domain!

Anonymous said...

About time.

Anonymous said...

About time.

Malagodi said...

Yea, I was there.

Crowd estimate about 250-300, which is really good considering Clewiston is an hour and a half from anywhere.

Good mixture too of enviro activists and naturalists, as well as a dose of what appeared to be the 6-pack boater. Plus kids and costumes, and the speakers were pointed though polite. Good work.

But as always the question becomes how do politics in a park become policies in practice?

Here's a few pics.