February 7th's senate hearing in Tallahassee was a win for the Everglades and our estuaries.
Senate Bill 10, calling for the expedited planning and completion of a southern reservoir, took a step in the right direction with unanimous approval from the Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation. This victory brought an air of well-deserved celebration to proponents of Everglades restoration.
Amid the revel, a defining new development took shape. Sparked by residents from the heart of the EAA, several speakers expressed concerns that highlighted the economic hardship of the glades communities, which have suffered poverty and years of 20-40% unemployment, by far the highest in the state.
The message: “We are hurting too. If you have to build this reservoir in order to save the economy and protect the health of the people on both coasts, then find a way in this bill to create jobs here too. Make SB 10 a win-win for both the glades and coastal communities."
To use Senator Robert Bradley’s own words: “We hear you.”
A southern reservoir anchors a scientifically sound option for reestablishing the natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee, and solving the health and economic crises faced by residents on the coasts. But Michigan-based US Sugar and Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals, who combined own more than half of the land in the vast EAA, finally came clean at the hearing on what they've been voicing for months through third parties and fake groups: They oppose the solution, regardless of who needs it or why.
We've been tracking all the fake groups and red herrings since we started; that's why we’re called ‘Bullsugar.' Seeing the Motts and Fanjuls finally step forward from behind all those layers of deception and honestly express their motives — ‘We won’t sell the land’ — was actually a breath of fresh air.
However, we do feel a solidarity with the people who live and work in the glades communities. They only want the same thing that the rest of the people in South Florida want: good jobs and a safe, healthy place to raise a family. For the million people on both coasts to have that, we need those toxic discharges to stop. For the people in the glades communities to have that, they need protection from flooding, and economic opportunity in a region that has been crushed by poverty and lack of work for more than a generation.
Joe Negron's proposed EAA reservoir can be a win-win. We've all heard how it can stop the toxic discharges and provide clean fresh water to the Everglades and 6 million Floridians. It can also take pressure off the dike by holding the lake lower due to the additional water supply of the reservoir, reducing the risk of flooding to the communities to the south.
Lastly, and in response to Mayor Wilson’s plea -- the EAA Reservoir, and Everglades restoration in general, is going to mean a lot of jobs, and a lot of training for a very, very long time. CERP is projected to cost an additional $17 BILLION and take 50 more years. Surely, Joe Negron’s SB 10, while saving the jobs and protecting the health of the people on the coasts, can also provide training, jobs and benefits to the people in the glades at the same time? It is so simple, and such a clear win-win, it would be crazy not to, right?