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Although there are feeble signs to the contrary, agriculture still remains the golden boy of Florida and as such manages to slip through the net when addressing our water ills. This is a most difficult topic and will take time, careful planning and good will. So far we have little of that, but as the results of the current state continue to reveal the inevitable, it will come about by necessity.
Our message remains the same: we need and must preserve agriculture but current practices must radically change and the consumer must sacrifice equally. Until we reach that mutual decision, our rivers and aquifer will continue to decline and die. When we start pumping up saltwater everywhere, it may be too late.
At this moment the solution should be new people in positions of power, both in Tallahassee and all those below.
Read the complete article at this link to the Decatur Daily.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Despite dreadful beach conditions, Florida governor won’t regulate agriculture polluters
Oct. 22, 2019
The moment I drove over the causeway — my favorite Florida beaches on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva beckoning — the stench in the air foreshadowed bad news.
Before me, the normally glittering blue Gulf waters were an infuriating thick shade of brown.
At the Sanibel Lighthouse beach, the heaps of toxic-smelling red algae were so large and smelled so overwhelmingly bad, that all I could manage was a quick sprint over a walkway for a look — and I had to flee. I almost vomited. My eyes were instantly on fire. I felt I couldn’t breathe.
And I knew.
Once again, Florida’s polluters had gotten away with dirtying up paradise.
In a replay that has become depressingly familiar, the toxic agricultural discharge from Lake Okeechobee had made it through the Caloosahatchee River and estuary to the beaches of Lee County.
I witnessed the debacle in early September as I searched for a clean beach and found none. In Bowman’s Beach, there was less red algae, but the beach still stank. In Captiva, tiny black particles in waters close to the shore left a black coat of soot on the sand.
More than a month later, local news stations reported dead fish last week all over Fort Myers Beach — and Lee County posted low to medium concentrations of red tide.
Where’s the outrage we heard last year? Why aren’t we talking about this anymore?
The problem didn’t go away when “Red tide Rick” — aka Gov. Rick Scott — moved to the U.S. Senate. And it didn’t go away with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ promises that he would make the necessary changes to environmental regulation to keep toxins from contaminating beaches over and over again.
In fact, the plan DeSantis unveiled Wednesday to improve water quality and prevent the toxic effects of algae blooms, although widely praised by some environmental leaders, leaves agricultural polluters to police themselves.
Agriculture runoff was identified by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force as a key source of nutrients causing the toxic algae blooms. But instead of adopting stricter standards, the governor is allowing the industry to continue to set them for the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides, the Miami Herald reported. And compliance with rules and standards is voluntary for farmers.
These policies are what got us to where we are today….
It shouldn’t be politicized as a matter of liberal environmentalists vs. a billion-dollar farming and ranching industry that dates to indigenous times. Not only is the health of Floridians being compromised by pollution, but vacation rentals, restaurants — and the rest of the working class that makes up the tourism industry — are affected when we can’t swim in our beaches. Needless to say, fishermen need healthy oceans and rivers too.
Yes, there’s a plethora of components to what ails our beaches — from sewer discharges to water levels at Lake Okeechobee. But the governor’s bill, in addition to runoff, also fails to address stricter monitoring of septic tanks.
One of the solutions environmentalists have called for is tougher controls of phosphorus, which flows into Lake Okeechobee from surrounding farms. How can you call a bill “comprehensive” without tackling the elephant in the room — water contamination?
Praise DeSantis for the will and the effort, yes.
But the governor can do much better than surrendering to the same failed environmental policies that led to the stinky, sorry state of Florida beaches.
— Fabiola Santiago is the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”