Friday, January 29, 2016

Historic January rains: State of Florida / Big Sugar opens the gates of hell ... by gimleteye

A hard rain is drenching South Florida, this January. An historic piece of climate chaos because, if you pay attention, winter should be dry season. Agriculture is being hit hard, but Florida's estuaries, rivers and coastal real estate are being hit harder, receiving massive amounts of unwanted, polluted farm run-off.

In Martin and Palm Beach Counties, and on the West coast of the state -- in Lee and Collier -- rivers and estuaries are being sacrificed to keep Lake Okeechobee water levels down. It has been this way a long time: water management in Florida serves Big Sugar and to make sure it stays that way, Big Sugar buys off the Florida legislature and Congress, both, to keep their prerogatives intact at the expense of taxpayers and voters.

Here's a great photo of what the mismanagement of Florida's fresh water resources looks like, under flood conditions like today's.
The photo is courtesy of Bullsugar, a Martin County based organization that is taking on the polluting practices of the Fanjul and US Sugar Corporation oligarchs, major contributors to US Senator Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb! Bush.

On Facebook, Michael Conner, a writer, former Miami resident, fisherman, and Rivers advocate, tried to explain how much water is exploding out of Lake Okeechobee: "Hey water folks, count 1, 2. Just now, 33,293 gallons of filthy polluted water went from the C44 canal through the St. Lucie locks to the St. Lucie River estuary. 3,4... oh, there goes another 33 thousand!"

Big Sugar wants excess water off its farmland, into canals owned and operated by the South Florida Water Management District and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Both are nominally intended to serve the public, but who they serve first and foremost are politicians and their feeder system; from county commissioners to the state house, then Congress and all the way into the White House. The Big Sugar PR machine excels at dividing and conquering its opponents; opponents like the grass roots group, Bullsugar.

Bullsugar's Kenny Hinkle, Jr. who lives in Martin County writes on his Facebook page: "I've had an on going battle with disinformation. JP Sasser, former mayor of Pahokee, and member of One Florida Foundation/ One Florida Farce, is part of the problem, not the solution. He attacks my town/county at EVERY opportunity. Yet his town is the most violent and impoverished in Florida. The only way out is drugs or sports. Here is a sample of our conversation.
From JP Sasser former Mayor: There are 50,000 people that live in the Glades. We are getting the same amount of rain that everyone else is getting. Our homes, roads and cars are under water just like all the rich people on the coast. Glades lives matter too. You have no idea about us here nor do you really care. But FYI we have charter schools - one A rated that are funded by SUGAR. Second the vast majority of farmers in the Glades are FAMILIES not large corporations.

Kenny Hinkle, Jr.: I'm a part time bartender and part time videographer/photographer. I serve as a volunteer on THREE Nonprofit board of directors because I want MY 13 year old daughter to have a future environment to live in. To say I don't care about the economically distressed communities north of the Sugar fields is untrue. My heart goes out to them and we would welcome opportunities to help them, as we help less fortunate families near us. I find it distasteful that the Sugar industry, which has a checkered past of exploiting workers and then abandoning them after mechanization, tries to play the poor card when the coastal communities demand a stop to the discharges.

We have been getting dumped on for decades, and there is no end in sight. Peoples' businesses and health have suffered, yet we get no insurance, FEMA assistance or support, just empty promises that never come true. I know that 90% of your land is controlled by the Fanjul and Mott White families. They each took in $300 million in corporate welfare in 2015 ALONE. They could get together over breakfast tomorrow and stop the discharges forever, and still continue to get richer growing sugar in the EAA for years to come. So take your 'rich people on the coast' bullsugar somewhere people don't know better.

According to Bloomberg: "Rubio's deep sugar ties frustrate conservatives" (Zachary Mider, Jan 26, 2016):
Few people have played as big a role in Marco Rubio's rise in national politics as Jose "Pepe" Fanjul. With his brother Alfonso, Fanjul runs one of the biggest sugar companies in the country, with brands like Domino and Florida Crystals. He's a prominent Palm Beach socialite whose friends include the former king of Spain. In 2009, he marshalled both his money and his connections to help Rubio's long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate. Rubio later thanked the Fanjul family in his autobiography, "for believing in me early on when few did." For his part, Rubio believes in sugar. As a Republican senator, he twice voted with Democrats to preserve government aid even as he railed against "corporate welfare" in other parts of the economy. He calls preserving U.S. sugar subsidies a matter of national security.

Rubio's facetious claim is hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions, both hard and dark money, on his quest to be the next president of the United States or highly paid commentator for Fox News. Meanwhile, the pollution keeps flowing, damaging natural resources and real estate values on both coasts.
Mr. Rubio has many talents, but one trait the presidential campaign has exposed is a tendency to hedge on his principles when he thinks it's politically beneficial," the Wall Street Journal's editorial page wrote in November. Rubio maintains he's independent of his donors. "When someone supports Marco, they are buying into his agenda, not the other way around," said Alex Burgos, a campaign spokesman. Florida Crystals didn't respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment from the Fanjuls.

So who do these polluting practices by the state of Florida, save? Big Sugar whose Goldilocks command of fresh water in the state is impervious to intervention: never too wet, never too dry.

Dumping water out of Lake Okeechobee is only one half of the devil. The other half: the state of Florida pumping water OUT OF SUGARCANE FIELDS back into Lake Okeechobee. This practice is called backpumping, and it is at the heart of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit Friends of the Everglades (full disclosure: I am volunteer board president of Friends) heard twice by the US Supreme Court, sent back to a lower federal court, and is likely going back to the Supreme Court, a third time.

Meanwhile, the rains keep falling. The climate change deniers from Florida, Marco Rubio and Jeb! Bush, rotate this way and that way with Big Sugar's fingers on the dial.


Unknown said...

This has been going on for many years - any politician that has allowed this should be in jail - we need to vote them out and elect politicians who care about the environmental problems in Florida - case closed!!

David Urich said...

What about Hoover Dirt Dike? When it is over 15' (the danger level) and they AGAIN start BACKPUMPING to save the SUGAR cane! What if the DIKE ruptures and nature takes control to send the Lake "O" water back to it's NATURAL flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay? How many LIVES would be LOST in Belle Glade and surrounding low areas?

How about the funding of $1.5 BILLION now set aside for Hoover Dike reconstruction? Yet they say it would be too costly to buy land and restore the SOUTH flow of water at what they claim would be $1.6 Billion! In other words (using their figures) it would only cost ONE more Billion to restore the natural flow back to the SOUTH! Perhaps some research (unbiased) would show that both issues could be solved with the SAME money! Do SOME Dike repairs, and yet put in a South Spillway and BUY the land needed for the EAA SOUTH Reservoir!

Do we really want to hold that water behind the Hoover Dike? Why NOT restore the historic SOUTHERN flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay?

Caffeine Clicks said...

Wow, how incredibly depressing.

Anonymous said...

But then if it heads south wouldn't that polluted water would end up in FL Bay and the Keys?

Anonymous said...

Dilution is the States answer for pollution

Anonymous said...

Fanjuls had a direct line to the White House during the Clinton administration. Sugar is nice but has health consequences. Maybe they should plant a water loving crop that could be used to produce electricity.Shameful.

Mary Jane Cosden said...

Lee County beaches are ruined by the discharges. It is chasing the visitors away. Who wants to stay at the beach when the water is unsafe!

Anonymous said...

JollyMonSouth brings up a good point. The Fanjuls wine and dine whomever they need to in order to get what they want. They know no party boundaries.

Cory Booker attended a fundraiser at the Fanjul estate in Coral Gables. I sent his people a couple emails asking him to stay away from them. No responses.

Anonymous said...

But the water and sediments in the canals and in Lake O is so high in nutrients now, how can we dare to send it southward into the Everglades and Florida Bay as is? It will make things worse. I'm not sure there is enough political will or public support to be drummed up to make the cost of treating those discharges to acceptable, non-harmful levels palatable. Any thoughts on how to handle that elephant?