Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On US Sugar land purchase, Florida state legislators are running for cover while toxic algae blooms again: don't let Senator Joe Negron run out the clock ... by gimleteye

Florida Sportsman magazine was founded in Miami by Karl Wickstrom. Over decades the fishing in Miami turned to shit. Too many people rolled into the suburbs and onto the coasts, blessed by politicians who profited handsomely by turning a blind eye to the real costs of growth. Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay and the Keys faded so far, so fast that they literally lost their constituencies: people willing to lay down on the tracks to protect their quality of life, the environment, and everything they valued about South Florida.

That is not true a little further to our north, in St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin County and Palm Beach, the area where Wickstrom and Florida Sportsman moved a decade ago to find their audience and a little peace of mind as they fished the way they used to, in Biscayne Bay.

But the pollution and political corruption on the environment followed them north. A so-far peaceful revolution has been brewing in Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties among people who still believe -- unlike Miamians -- that their quality of life is worth fighting for. And I mean, fighting. There is a lot of river front property, a lot of it owned by people who used to vote Republican, where owners can't even touch the water anymore much less fish, for fear of contracting infections.

People are steaming mad at the liars and thieves in the Florida legislature groveling before Big Ag, despite its rampant pollution of Lake Okeechobee, and especially the master puppeteers: Big Sugar billionaires whose net worth entirely depends on manipulating government to its purposes. It is different from Miami, where the sugar barons bought the silence of everyone from downtown law firms to public relations to the Miami Herald.

The St. Lucie, Indian River lagoon, and Caloosahatchee River are filled with toxics because the water management system in South Florida serves polluters not people and certainly not the environment.

The lip service that has been paid to our quality of life drove a lot of smart people out of Miami-Dade County in recent decades. Not yet Martin, St. Lucie, and Palm Beach. Those folks who love to fish -- again, not to beat the point to death, a lot of them have self-identified as Republican over the years -- are steaming mad that in spite of a 75 percent state-wide endorsement of purchasing environmentally sensitive lands, like the US Sugar properties in a vastly whittled down deal from the 2010 agreement to buy its entire portfolio of 130,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area, politicians in the state legislature are turning a blind eye.

At the center of the storm is a Florida senator, Joe Negron, a land use lawyer for Gunster Yoakley whose district spans four counties: Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach. Negron filled the spot left by one of the most self-serving former public servants of the Bush era; Ken Pruitt. Pruitt, in the state senate, and state house leader Marco Rubio were key Jeb Bush lieutenants in the 2003 effort to undermine then change the 1994 Everglades Forever Act and changes sought by Big Sugar that resulted in a decade of Clean Water Act litigation that finally was won in federal court by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe.

For many years, Senator Negron neglected active leadership in protecting his constituents while, on the other hand, taking copious amounts of campaign cash from Big Sugar. Recently, however, he has been unable to dodge the pressure of successive years of devastating pollution spewing out of Lake Okeechobee, wrecking the river and estuaries, or the mounting anger of constituents in four Florida counties.

Now, Senator Negron appears to support the citizen movement calling for the state legislature to purchase US Sugar lands with money from Amendment 1, passed last November. It is not clear whether he is really committed to supporting the land purchase for cleansing marshes or whether he is simply part of the effort to let the clock run out on the legislative session.

In his political career, Senator Negron had plenty of time to be a political leader on pollution issues and growth management issues, but he was on the wrong team.

His constituents are not only right to be skeptical, they ought to take their protests right to his doorstep while there are still people who care. If you want an example of what happens when voters fail to hold their state legislators accountable, come to Miami or have a look around at our region's only daily newspaper, The Miami Herald, that just let go its only outdoors writer of two decades.

Don't let Senator Joe Negron off the hook.

The following, reprinted from: bullsugar.org

Support Joe Negron's Efforts to Include $500M in Budget, Demand Purchase of US Sugar Land

I've always been wary of Joe Negron's rhetoric about our rivers. Over the past decade he has been one of the biggest recipients of sugar money which by definition disqualifies him from having our estuaries' best interests at heart. The sugar industry has a long history of polluting not only our estuaries and Everglades, but also our politics. In just the past year we have seen plenty of examples of their outsize power and bad faith tactics (Fake Tea party protest, One Florida Foundation, etc). And just look at how US Sugar is dominating the 2015 legislative session, preventing the use of Amendment 1 money to buy the 46k acres of land that is critical to not only saving our estuaries but also to re-watering the Everglades and providing water supply to 7 million Floridians.

We have the money, we have a deal on the table, and we have a pressing need for that land. Every serious scientist, every environmentalist, virtually every Florida newspaper agrees we need to buy this land.

So it is unconscionable that state politicians are turning their backs on this limited time US Sugar option. It is a crime perpetrated by Rick Scott, the SFWMD governing board and our Florida lawmakers, on behalf of US Sugar. If we bought this 46k acres, we could stop future toxic algae blooms from entering our estuary. That is not true for the existing projects in CERP and CEPP! So remember when lawmakers say 'first priority is existing projects' what they are really saying is "Hey 3 million people who live near these estuaries! Don't like toxic algae? Worried about your health, your kids, your homes, your businesses? Tough luck! You're getting it for another 30 years before we even THINK about a project to help you!"

Our small victory temporarily halting the discharges last week is fleeting. If the Lake gets higher the water will come, toxic or not. We need to buy that land so we can have a permanent solution.

Will that 46k acres stop every gallon of water every single year? No, but it will do a heck of a lot more than any existing projects will. It would reduce the frequency and magnitude of discharges, including this one. To wait is lunacy. It is irresponsible. It is a betrayal of the people of Florida, especially the people here on the Treasure Coast and out on the west coast in the Fort Meyers area.
US Sugar (and also Associated Industries and some other special interest lobbyists) is behind this crime, and the politicians they fund are complicit.

As I said at the beginning, Joe Negron has been one of the biggest recipients of US Sugar's largesse, so I have always been skeptical of his intentions. He didn't champion our water issues in the years he served in Tallahassee prior to the popular outrage in the summer of 2013 that gave rise to the River Warriors movement. In response to that 'Lost Summer of 2013', he arranged hearings to discuss short-term solutions but he distanced himself from buying the land - even though many people pointed out that buying the land was the only hope for a permanent solution.
This year, he kept quiet about buying the land until the 11th hour of this legislative session. The devil's advocate in me wonders, "Is he doing this after it is too late, just to have his cake and eat it too - so he can say he supported the land buy, although in reality he didn't until it was too late?"

The biggest thing that keeps me guessing is the UF study. He was the one who pushed for that study, and that study pushed for the US Sugar land. Some sugar apologists like Mitch Hutchcraft and 'Economic Council of Martin County' have tried to twist the UF study around and say it recommends 'existing projects are first priority' but the study's author Wendy Graham makes it clear that they are misinterpreting its findings. The study unequivocally states we need land south of the lake - and then says we better look at the US Sugar deal pretty darn quick because we may not get another chance like it. That is powerful stuff. That flies in the face of what Rick Scott, SFWMD governing board and certain Florida lawmakers are saying. that UF study has caused US Sugar some headaches, I think it's fair to say. So Joe Negron made the UF study happen, and that was a good thing.

Now, Senator Negron says he is trying to get $500m into the budget for land to send water south. That would keep the US Sugar option alive, technically. Still a long shot, but not completely dead like it might be if no money was in the budget.

He 'says' he is trying. I am still skeptical. It reminds me too much of 2013 when after a lot of pressure at the last second he said we could buy the land 'if the feds paid for it.' In other words, he gets to say he's for it, but since it's not going to happen, he doesn't make US Sugar angry. But right now, at this moment, we need to take Joe Negron at his word, because it's the best chance we have to keep our hopes alive to get that critical land. Also, I want to thank and applaud Senator Negron for responding quickly to our video, and contacting the Army Corps to stop the discharges. To that end, we should show up in numbers at the Wednesday rally - to support Senator Negron's effort to keep the US Sugar land deal on the table.

So I am saying now - C'mon, Joe! I'm with ya, and I urge all fellow River Warriors to stand with you to get this money allocated into the budget!

But just getting the money is not enough. We need to use this money to buy the land. That is what needs to happen by October 12, 2015 or we can expect toxic blue green algae every year the water gets high, with no end in sight. If we get that land - because of Amendment 1, because of the UF study you made happen, and because of your efforts now - then you will have not only my support, gratitude and admiration. You will have a legacy that will last forever.

***** RALLY DETAILS *****
Two Coasts, One Message: Buy the Land Now
Rallies to support State Senator Joe Negron for his efforts to open the door to a sugar land purchase and call for further action
When: Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Where: Flagler Park, 201 SW Flagler Ave, Stuart, FL
Time: 11 a.m. to noon (11 30 a.m. Press Conference)
WHO & WHAT: Elected officials, Everglades Coalition, Rivers Coalition, and River Warriors will laud Florida Senator Joe Negron (R) for planning on introducing legislation asking for $500 million for land purchases, money that could buy U.S. Sugar lands. Will present "Buy the land" letters to Governor, House Speaker, Senate President from 19 local elected officials and resolutions from 11 local governments. Florida Realtors' water quality/home values study. People will sign a giant poster saying, “With Joe we stand. Let’s buy the land.”
Where: Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort & Marina, 15107 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924
Time: 10 to 11 a.m. (10:15 a.m. Press Conference)
WHO & WHAT: SW FL business leaders, Realtors and Chamber of Commerce officials. Boaters, fisherman, kayak and paddle boarders will take to the water in support. Singer/songwriters: North Captiva’s Bob Hipkens and Austin Church from Cocoa Beach. Florida Realtors' water quality/home values study. Videotaping of messages to the Governor and Leadership will also be captured and Queenies ice cream will be served. Banners, posters. Painted fish.


Anonymous said...

As the Editor of the Stetson University student newspaper in the early 1980's, Negron seemed to be a crusader against corruption and wrongdoing. One of his exposes cost the long time campus facilities manager his job. The question I have is whether Joe has evolved from that or was he really going to bat for someone else who could take corruption to a new and more discrete level. Maybe the vast money available from big sugar has blinded him and caused him to forget his real roots in doing the right thing. He is clearly a career politician who's time for retirement has come.

Grillo said...

If the time has come for Sen. Joe Negron to retire, don't wait for him to do it. The voters in his district have the power to do it in the next time he is up for re-election.

Blair Wickstrom said...

Kenny, please don't be fooled, State Senator Joe Negron, one of the most influential senators in Tallahassee had a chance to champion the cause, to use his influence to push for funding for the land purchase south of the lake. That time has past, and he knows it. Whatever he says now about the purchase is completely disingenuous and should be insulting to all River Warriors.

True said...

It is unfortunate that some in the environmental community insist on attacking other groups working toward the goal of clean water. There is plenty of room for all of us in this fight. One Florida Foundation is working on septic tank issues and storage north of the lake, as well as finishing Everglades Restoration projects and finding additional ways to send water south. With hundreds of thousands of septic tanks along the Indian River Lagoon, and extreme runoff from the Kissimmee basin flowing virtually unabated into Lake Okeechobee, we feel these are worthy problems to focus on. As for the involvement of the business community, we are delighted to see them stepping up and getting involved in the conversation, and if they're misinterpreting something, let's talk to them about that. It is our assertion that we will not get any of our problems solved without including them in the conversation and pushing for improvement on all fronts. Reasonable heads might just prevail, if we can put them together for the common good. Anyone who wants to know more about our organization can go to www.onefloridafoundation.org. We are happy to answer any questions.

Nyla Pipes
One Florida Foundation

Anonymous said...

This blue green algae is not just a local problem. It is a problem Nation Wide and World Wide. Just google it and you will find you are not alone. We need a team of scientists just to solve this part of our water issues. We can't just send this algae to the everglades.

Pamela Joy said...

We don't want to send the algae to the Everglades. The so called 'Nutrients in the water in Lake O , need to cleaned from the water in Lake O before it gets to the Everglades, that is why land purchase is needed south of Lake O, for storage, the water will then be cleaned as it is slowly conveyed to the Everglades as once was.

Anonymous said...

Only one problem. If people knew how to stop or clean blue green algae then 27 states in the US and several countries world wide need to be taught. We need a team of scientists on just this one issue. Blue green algae is a growing human problem.

cyndi said...

What Blair Wickstrom said. Joe Negron has no intention of helping us. He banked on the house falling apart so he could say "boo hoo I'm sorry. I tried but those bozo's in the house they let you down. not me"
Mr Editor of the Stetson University: I heard he started off great but went to the dark side.
As for Ken Pruit. This is a guy who wouldn't even help his brother in law who is a veterinarian. Love the reference.
Back to Joe. He has big aspirations but I read today there is an issue with his district lines.http://www.tcpalm.com/news/politics/negrons-redrawn-senate-district-contained-more-treasure-coast-fewer-democrats_90519742
Thank you so much. No matter what we have to make this right.

cyndi said...

The bottom line is that it's worth fighting for. This is a very special place and most of us agree we want to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I'm facing some of these issues as well..