Monday, March 28, 2016

We Know What We Are Seeing: Buy Big Sugar Lands, Send Clean, Fresh Water South ... by gimleteye

People in South Florida are beginning to understand how every taxpayer in South Florida is hostage to the dismal water quality in Lake Okeechobee. This is us.

Imagine that we are citizens of Flint, Michigan -- forced by government and elected officials to drink water contaminated with lead. In Florida, the metaphor is apt.

First of all, count on government officials and the agency PR machine to deny. They are doing it now: issuing press statements assuring that all is well, problem is recognized and addressed. Second, they will go to newspapers and TV stations where they have cultivated relationships. Third, they will attack critics as ill-informed, penning letters to the editors and OPED's for others to submit.

This formulaic response did protect the special interest's prerogatives and corporate welfare over decades. Something changed. What changed is that voters and taxpayers know what we are seeing, and we are expressing it very clearly in photos, videos, and blog posts on social media -- viewed by hundreds of thousands of Floridians.

Here, we live and recreate on or simply appreciate waterways like the Indian River Lagoon, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the Caloosahatchee River directly impacted by the Lake Okeechobee's filthy water. Or Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. We know what we are seeing.

The problem with Florida's dismal water quality is not just that we taxpayers are sacrifice zones for Big Sugar. It is that we are all hostage to the bad water quality coming out of Lake Okeechobee.

There is an answer and another plan. Last August, 207 scientists petitioned Gov. Rick Scott to buy Bug Sugar lands, to put enough storage in place that the catastrophe that occurred this recent January might not have happened. This bears repeating: if Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature had completed the deal to buy U.S. Sugar lands, that U.S. shareholders approved in 2008, they would be able to say -- at least -- that they were doing something to alleviate Lake O stormwater runoff even if it still will take years to complete. They did the opposite.

They refused to allocate Amendment 1 funding, approved by more than 75 percent of Florida voters as a constitutional amendment in 2014, to buy Big Sugar lands south of Lake Okeechobee. This legislative session, they approved a new state water policy that protects polluters inside virtual barbed wire enclosures. "We will call it pollution when we decide to call it pollution."

Decades lost to restoring water quality in Florida -- despite billions spent -- serve a single purpose: to make Big Sugar even richer. In the U.S. Congress, not even conservatives or tea party stalwarts have been able to remove the stigma of corporate welfare embedded in the Farm Bill, that guarantees Big Sugar profits before a single seed is planted. Big Sugar takes a fraction of those guaranteed profits, fertilizes Tallahassee and local county commissions and political races, and thus ensures that taxpayers will shoulder the majority of the cost and pain of cleaning up the industry's pollution.

Here is what the scientists signed last summer. “As a scientist working in the Everglades," they each asserted, "... it is my scientific opinion that increased storage and treatment of freshwater south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward, is essential to restoring the Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Caloosahatchee and St.Lucie estuaries.” (names, listed below)

Gov. Scott and Ag. Secretary Adam Putnam and the rest of the Florida legislature basically told the scientists to fuck off. (Same as US Senator Marco Rubio, who refused to meet with climate change scientists over a period of many years.)

We can't get to fixing the Lake Okeechobee problem until a government agency makes the case for taking the land by eminent domain. Part of the reason eminent domain is necessary is because of fragmented land ownership in the EAA. Another part is common sense: until Big Sugar feels the heat of political change, there is no reason to change.

Taxpayers feel helpless; mislead by Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, by Governor Rick Scott, by Sig Sugar's mouthpieces like Senate president Joe Negron and Representative Matt Caldwell. We don't know what to do, because we are being lied to.

A plan forward will not happen until we elect politicians to step forward. It can't happen in Florida so long as the state legislature is in the hammer hold of Big Sugar. It might happen if a federal agency steps up to protect the national interest in the Everglades, with the support of Congress and the White House.

Along this line, Monroe County -- including the Florida Keys -- has already stepped forward asking government agencies to speed up Everglades restoration. Also along this line, Florida voters already rejected two GOP presidential primary candidates -- Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- firmly in Big Sugar's pockets.

Taking Big Sugar lands is not a question -- as Big Sugar tries to sell -- of over-reaching government. They know and we know since time for our estuaries and Everglades and Florida Bay has run out, it is only a question of price.

With Gov. Rick Scott and Ag. Secretary Putnam at the helm, even getting to the price is impossible because they are fully committed to embarrassing excuses, half-measures, and outright pandering to the billionaires' sticky embrace. When Republican water managers refused to exercise the option to buy US Sugar lands, they showed their cards. It is time for voters to show, ours.

More land needed to stop discharges, science shows
Jennifer Hecker 5:01 p.m. EDT March 26, 2016
Fort Myers News Press

Additional land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) for more water storage, treatment and conveyance south has been highlighted as the necessary missing piece of the puzzle to restoring the Everglades and south Florida estuaries for years, as outlined in the state’s 2008 Reviving the River of Grass initiative and the more recent 2015 University of Florida Water Institute study.

Both studies state over a million acre feet of storage north of Lake Okeechobee and 1.2 million acre feet (391 billion gallons) of storage in the EAA would be needed to alternatively take the amount of water coming into the lake and out the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

To address the pollution also requires EAA lands. The state’s Basin Management Action Plan to clean up the river clearly states that of the 61 percent of the primary pollutant to the Caloosahatchee, nitrogen, is coming from Lake Okeechobeef. Lake Okeechobee currently does not meet state water quality standards for safe use for swimming and fishing, and also has a clean-up plan. As a result, water from the Lake is too dirty to send elsewhere without filtration. Current treatment areas in the Everglades are maxed out, so added treatment would be needed. The water must be captured and stored first to not overload the new treatment areas, or they will fail and polluted water would flow downstream and destroy the remaining Everglades and Florida Bay.

The bottom line is that water currently being discharged out of our river originally flowed through the EAA region when it was historically part of the Everglades. No one is singling out agribusinesses in the EAA as the sole impediment to solving our water crisis, but they are a critical piece of the problem and solution. We cannot move that water south again without building a wider path for conveyance, a catchment reservoir, and additional filter marshes in the EAA. Buying these lands will do that while also removing some pollution, drainage and bottleneck of flow that are contributing to the problems. This can all be done without reducing flood protection for inland communities or displacing large numbers of inland residents. In return, they will have a healthier Lake Okeechobee and reduced risk of dike failure, which will improve their economy and safety.

In response to the state’s current inaction to secure the EAA lands based on political reasons, it is appropriate and necessary for the federal government to pursue buying them to protect federal resources being impacted such as the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. That’s why the Conservancy of Southwest Florida supports a bill filed last week by Congressman Curt Clawson to buy lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (HR 4793).This bill would draw upon emergency funds and would not affect funding for other Everglades restoration projects.

To quote the South Florida Water Management District from when they were supportive and had begun acquiring these lands in 2008, “The potential acquisition of vast tracts of long sought-after land in the EAA now offers the unprecedented opportunity to reestablish a historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades through a managed system of water storage and water quality treatment.”

Last year, the District choose to terminate one of the purchase options. However, there is still an option to buy the EAA lands at fair market value. This land is not going to get any cheaper, and with mining and development marching inward, we cannot allow this opportunity to save our estuaries and the Everglades slip through our hands forever.

Everyone wanting a cleaner Caloosahatchee needs to contact federal and state legislators and tell them to authorize and appropriate more money for Everglades Restoration, as well as to support buying EAA lands. Learn more about the Conservancy and Everglades Restoration at Together, we can bring about the long overdue solutions our community needs and deserves.

207 Scientists Petition for Sending Water South
by Karl Wickstrom, Florida Sportsman • August 20, 2015 • 3 Comments

Following is the complete list of 207 independent researchers in the science community who have signed a petition calling for excess Lake Okeechobee water to be stored, treated and sent south. (See September FS Openers column.)

The list includes noted experts such as Chris McVoy, Tom Van Lent and Mark Perry, plus dozens of other scholarly staffers who work out of the limelight but understand the need to re-water the Glades and avoid catastrophic discharges to the coasts.

Text and signers of Go South petition:

“As a scientist working in the Everglades, it is my scientific opinion that increased storage and treatment of freshwater south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward, is essential to restoring the Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Caloosahatchee and St.Lucie estuaries.”

1 Thomas Van Lent, Everglades Foundation

2 Tom Lodge, TEL Ecological Advisors, Inc.

3 Christopher McVoy, Ecologist

4 Upmanu Lall, Columbia University

5 Stuart Pimm Doris, Duke University

6 Donald DeAngelis, U.S. Geological Survey

7 Robert Johnson, National Park Service

8 Laurel Larsen, University of California, Berkley

9 Robert Twilley , Louisiana State University

10 Bill Mitsch, Florida Gulf Coast University

11 Curtis Richardson, Duke University

12 James A. Kushlan, U.S. Geological Survey(retired)

13 Paul McCormick, Joseph Jones Ecological Research Center

14 Steven M. Davis, Ibis Ecosystem Associates,Inc.

15 Evelyn Gaiser, Florida International University

16 Agnes McLean, National Park Service

17 G.Ronnie Best, U.S. Geological Survey(retired)

18 Fernando Miralles`Wilhelm, University of Maryland

19 Eldredge Bermingham, Frost Museum of Science

20 Jay Sah, Florida International University

21 Jenny Richards, Florida International University

22 Rosanna Rivero, University of Georgia

23 Henry Briceño, Florida International University

24 Rudolf Jaffé, Florida International University

25 Josh Breithaupt, University of South Florida

26 Joe Boyer, Plymouth State University

27 Peter Ortner, University of Miami

28 Joel Trexler, Florida International University

29 Hal Wanless, University of Miami

30 Greg Koch, Zoo of Miami

31 Stephen E. Davis, Everglades Foundation

32 Jordan Barr, Everglades National Park

33 Lance Gunderson, Emory University

34 Lilly Eluvathingal, Florida International University

35 Nima Sharifai, University of Miami

36 Victor Rivera`Monroy, Louisiana State University

37 Joseph Rodriguez

38 Jeffrey Hoch, Nova Southeastern University

39 Justin Cummings, Florida international University

40 Randy Chambers, College of William and Mary

41 Tiara Thanawastien, Biologist

42 Keith Waddington, University of Miami

43 Linda White, University of Miami

44 Suzana Mic Ph.D., Florida International University

45 Nicole Cortez, Florida International University

46 Peter Reiger, Florida International University

47 Jose Fuentes, Penn State University

48 John Volin, University of Connecticut

49 John McManus, University of Miami

50 Dale Gawlik, Florida Atlantic University

51 Kenny Broad, University of Miami

52 Leonard Pearlstine, Everglades National Park

53 David Lee, Florida International University

54 Kevin Kotun, Everglades National Park

55 Mike Rugge, Florida International University

56 Nick Schulte, Florida International University

57 David Ho, University of Hawaii

58 Christina Ugarte`Whelan, Florida International University

59 Hunter Clasen, University of South Florida

60 Melodie Naja, Everglades Foundation

61 Kathleen Sullivan`Sealey, University of Miami

62 Michelle Robinson, Audubon Florida

63 Addys Bode, University of Miami

64 Dana Krempels, University of Miami

65 Jamie Henry, Student

66 Terry Mossberg

67 Megan Burford, University of South Florida

68 Daniel DiResta, University of Miami

69 Mike Heithaus, Florida International University

70 Odalys Guaico

71 Robert McElderry, University of Miami

72 Rene Price, Florida International University

73 Katrina Schwartz, Woodrow Wilson Center

74 Carl Fitz,EcoLandMod, Inc.

75 Peter Frezza, Audubon Florida

76 John Kominoski, Florida International University

77 Sarah Bornhoeft, Florida International University

78 Jackea Gray

79 Sparkle Malone, U.S. Forest Service

80 Emily Nodine, University of Vermont

81 Aida Arik, Everglades Foundation

82 Jerry Lorenz, Audubon Florida

83 Rafael Travieso, Florida International University

84 Simeon Yurek, University of Miami

85 Shimon Wdowinski, University of Miami

86 Kimberly Shaffer, Biologist

87 Wyatt Sharber, University of Miami

88 Phil Darby, University of West Florida

89 Jeff Onsted, Florida International University

90 Edward Linden, Florida International University

91 Rajendra Paudel, Everglades Foundation

92 Benjamin Wilson, Florida International University

93 Sarah Cowles, University of Miami

94 Gregory Starr, University of Alabama

95 Fernando Bretos, Frost Museum of Science

96 Dan Childers, Arizona State University

97 Edward Castañeda, Louisiana State University

98 Andy Gottlieb

99 Nick Oehm, Florida International University

100 Rita Ullman

101 Leonard Scinto, Florida International University

102 Piyush Joshi, University of Miami

103 Sonja Smith, Florida International University

104 Myriam Weinstein

105 Olga Melin, National Parks Conservation Association

106 Sherry Speizer

107 Susan Dailey, Florida International University

108 James Douglass, Florida Gulf Coast University

109 Tiffany Troxler, Florida International University

110 Mark Clark, University of Florida

111 W. Michael Kemp, University of Maryland

112 Gail Hollander, Florida International University

113 Bill Nuttle

114 Martha Sutula, Southern California Coastal Research Project

115 Bob Doren, National Park Service (retired)

116 Evan Isherwood, Duke University

117 Nate Dorn, Florida Atlantic University

118 Bill Loftus, Aquatic Research & Communication, LLC

119 Matt Cohen, University of Florida

120 Andrea Westerband, University of Miami

121 Julia Dallman, University of Miami

122 Alison Giese

123 Sheri Kempinski

124 Olga Sanchez, Florida International University

125 Katie Williamson

126 Christopher Blanar, Nova Southeastern University

127 Julie Harrington, Florida State University

128 Diego Lirman, University of Miami

129 Stephanie Romanach, U.S. Geological Survey

130 Todd Osborne, University of Florida

131 Claire Burgett, Florida International University

132 Laura Ogden, Dartmouth College

133 Sara Edelman, Florida International University

134 Ian Zink, University of Miami

135 Justine Jackson Ricketts

136 Anne Mahler

137 Samuel Barro

138 Mark Rains, University of South Florida

139 Ashley Grace, Nova Southeastern University

140 Wayne Huber, Oregon State University

141 Jennifer Rehage, Florida International University

142 Ligia Collado`Vides, Florida International University

143 Isaac Skromne, University of Miami

144 Sheila Gaby, Miami Dade College

145 Dr. Michael Ross, Florida International University

146 Kristen Strobel

147 Jed Redwine, National Park Service

148 Frank Marshall, Frank Marshall Engineering

149 Greta Wanyik

150 Joanna Weremijewicz, University of Miami

151 Frank Mazzotti, University of Florida

152 Dave Rudnick, Everglades National Park

153 Tori Kuba, Scheda Ecological Associates

154 Claus Hansen

155 Tanya Jo Ormseth

156 Aaron Adams, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

157 Tom Frankovich, Florida International University

158 Richard Dodge, Nova Southeastern University

159 Bradford Young, Scheda Ecological Associates

160 Lauren Peters

161 Anna Armitage, Texas A&M University

162 Paul Wetzel, Smith College

163 Erik Powers, Parsons Environment & Infrastructure

164 Leo Sternberg, University of Miami

165 Richard Bartleson, Sanibel’ Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory

166 Darren Rumbold, Florida Gulf Coast University

167 Greg Juszli

168 Kristin Caruso

169 Russell Burdge

170 Thomas Bower

171 Sandy Scheda, Scheda Ecological Associates

172 Cynthia Scothorn

173 Dianne Rosensweig, Scheda Ecological Associates

174 Jonathan Shenker, Florida Institute of Technology

175 Thomas Ries, Scheda Ecological Associates

176 Christine Sciarrino, Ecological Associates

177 Guy Murtonen

178 Jeff Wozniak, Sam Houston State University

179 Kathy Worley, Conservancy of Southwest Florida

180 David Iwaniec, Arizona State University

181 Brian Machovina, Florida International University

182 Eric Milbrandt, Sanibel’ Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory

183 Krish Jayachandran, Florida International University

184 Lisa Chambers, St. Louis University

185 James Jawitz, University of Florida

186 Mark Perry, Florida Oceanographic Society

187 Helena Solo`Gabrielle, University of Miami

188 Mark Brown, University of Florida

189 Gregg Reynolds, Everglades National Park

190 Subodh Acharya, University of Florida

191 James Beerens, U.S. Geological Survey

192 Joseph Smoak, University of South Florida

193 Rivah Winter, University of Miami

194 Pauline Goldsmith

195 Erik Stabenau, National Park Service

196 Serge Thomas, Florida Gulf Coast University

197 James Heaney, University of Florida

198 Darrell Herbert, National Park Service

199 Pam Sullivan, University of Kansas

200 Carole McIvor, U.S. Geological Survey

201 John Day, Louisiana State University

202 Rolando O. Santos

203 Robin Rysavy

204 Kristie Wendelberger, Florida International University

205 Chris Kelble, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

206 Danielle Watts, University of California, Berkley

207 Rachel Silverstein, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences

Read more:

Jennifer Hecker is director of Natural Resource Policy, Conservancy of Southwest Florida.


Anonymous said...

Being subsidy predators, Big Sugar will demand excessive compensation. Thus, at the same time an Eminent Domain condemnation proceeding will drive the price to a fairer one.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that of the 207 scientists that signed the petition, I did not see one from the SFWMD. I guess the agency that is the most active in protecting, restoring, and studying the system did not agree with the petition? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that firms that pride themselves on mostly public sector work ie. SFWMD signed the petition but have no problem still doing work for them.

Anonymous said...

I work with the SFWMD folks almost weekly. There is no shortage of concern and effort on their part related to these issues, BUT they would like to keep their jobs like anybody else. Political petitions ain't how you do that. Such are the consequences the last time Floridians voted for gov.