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This from a State that Brags about its Water

SB10 made it over its next hurdle in the Senate this week, although not without a few surprises. Sen. Bradley opened by reiterating the inexcusable conditions that coastal communities experienced as a result of toxic discharges. He noted that a State of Emergency is in most cases created by an act of God, but this was a glaring exception. Our 242-day exposure to dangerous cyanobacteria and the tremendous economic loss that resulted were self-inflicted. “This from a state that brags about its water.”

People from all across the state traveled to address the committee with personal stories. Captain Adam Morley of St. Augustine reminded the council that the effects of toxic algae are a shared burden throughout Florida. “When the gates open up, the guides down there are displaced and they come up to where the water is still healthy, destabilizing the local industry that I work on. This is not just a South Florida issue – it is a state-wide issue, it affects all of us.”

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This from a State that Brags about its Water

SB10 made it over its next hurdle in the Senate this week, although not without a few surprises. Sen. Bradley opened by reiterating the inexcusable conditions that coastal communities experienced as a result of toxic discharges. He noted that a State of Emergency is in most cases created by an act of God, but this was a glaring exception. Our 242-day exposure to dangerous cyanobacteria and the tremendous economic loss that resulted were self-inflicted. “This from a state that brags about its water.”

People from all across the state traveled to address the committee with personal stories. Captain Adam Morley of St. Augustine reminded the council that the effects of toxic algae are a shared burden throughout Florida. “When the gates open up, the guides down there are displaced and they come up to where the water is still healthy, destabilizing the local industry that I work on. This is not just a South Florida issue – it is a state-wide issue, it affects all of us.”

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Want to Make Glades Communities Safe from Flooding? Build a Southern Spillway.

Several prominent Florida politicians have suggested that storing more water in Lake Okeechobee is the key to fixing our water management problems. But without an emergency spillway--as Californians learned last month--a bigger dike is only a bigger threat to the people living below it. Ultimately the idea comes from the sugar industry, which opposes any engineering to send water south--including a spillway--because safety is not what they care about. This time people saw through the smokescreen.

When Sen. David Simmons tried to derail Sen. Joe Negron’s plan to curb toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee, proposing a competing idea to simply build a bigger dike to store more water and send Washington the bill, groups that had backed everyone’s attacks against an Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir seemed to have little appetite for Simmons’. Why? Partly his timing.

Just as Simmons filed his bill, news feeds filled up with images of 200,000 evacuees looking on as construction crews scrambled to stop the Oroville Dam from collapsing into the Feather River, north of Sacramento. It reminded South Floridians’ of their own uneasy coexistence with the rising waters of Lake Okeechobee, and the aging dike whose predecessor failed during a 1928 hurricane, killing more than 2,500 people.

In California the thundering 30-foot wall of water and rock that officials warned about never came. At Oroville, critical engineering features--spillways--ultimately held and saved downstream communities from a disaster of epic proportions. Lake Okeechobee’s dike doesn’t have a true spillway or any southern outlet to send high volumes of water when there’s an emergency, relying instead on canals to the east and west as relief valves. Even when the locks are wide-open, the lake drains slower than a storm can fill it. Simmons’ proposal wouldn’t change this; it wouldn’t reduce the danger. Instead it would push even more water against the dike, reminding people who live below it of the threat posed by every hurricane, or even a wet winter season like 2016.

The 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane still casts a shadow over glades communities

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The Heroes Are Stepping Up

Across Florida the heroes are stepping up. This week more lawmakers from all around Florida and both sides of the aisle joined in support of Sen. Pres. Joe Negron and SB10/HB761 to fix our broken plumbing for good.

Joe Negron, Lone Hero by Andy Marlette/Pensacola News Journal. Reprinted with permission.

In Ft. Myers, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, co-sponsor of Rep. Thad Altman’s HB 761, led the announcement of Clemson economist Michael Maloney’s study on the project’s total economic impact. The study confirms what residents knew: Cutting toxic discharges into the Caloosahatchee represents a massive economic boost for southwest Florida. 

But Fitzenhagen focused on the people hurt most by the flagging tourist economy: hotel employees, restaurant workers, and fishermen. For them, the project means safer, better jobs. Fitzenhagen pointed out that glades communities need the same thing, and joined others calling for the bill to include local training and employment initiatives.

A day earlier, Sen. Jack Latvala demanded the same thing at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches: job creation in the Everglades Agricultural Area to ensure that a dynamic reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is a win-win for one of the state’s poorest regions. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Latvala reiterated his support for Negron, for a solution, and for a bill that delivers the most benefit for all of Florida, including the Everglades and Florida Bay.

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One Angry Man

Four in favor, one against. Last week Martin County Commissioners voted 4-1 to draft a resolution in support of Sen. Pres. Joe Negron’s SB 10. (Only Comm. Doug Smith voted no.) It was a show of support and gratitude for Negron’s courage, for using his political capital to fight for a solution to the toxic discharges that plague the Treasure Coast, and for opposing US Sugar’s and Florida Crystals' massive campaign to keep the status quo. 

Virtually no one outside the sugar industry thinks the status quo is acceptable. As Negron bluntly put it: Are you telling me that in 2017, in the United States of America, with the best research universities in the world, with everything that we have, the best we can do when the water rises is we’re going to flood communities east and west of Lake Okeechobee? I don’t accept that reality and I don’t hear anyone now defending it.

Everglades and Florida Bay stakeholders don’t accept that reality, either, because the status quo protects the sugar industry’s water supply at the expense of these two world-renowned ecosystems. Negron’s solution, backed by more than 200 scientists, delivers badly needed freshwater flows to revitalize South Florida’s environment and recharge the thinning aquifer that Miami drinks from. Support for SB 10 and the Now Or Neverglades Declaration, which outlines the solution, has come from all over Florida.

Toxic cyanobacteria blanked Treasure Coast waterways, again, in 2016

Of course the earliest and loudest support for the Now Or Neverglades Declaration came from Martin County. As reeking mats of toxic “guacamole” algae closed businesses and beaches, just about every person running for local office signed it--including Doug Smith.

Negron’s SB 10/HB 761 is exactly what Declaration signers asked for: a dynamic reservoir in the EAA to store, treat and send water south--the keystone project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), funded through Amendment 1 to purchase the land, to cut damaging discharges to coastal estuaries and rejuvenate Florida’s fabled River of Grass. And to follow the Declaration and deliver a win-win for glades communities, SB 10 supporters are working to make economic stimulus for local residents part of the bill. It’s just common sense that CERP, a 50-year, $17 billion public works project, should include training and jobs in the same region where unemployment reaches 40%.

The Now Or Neverglades Declaration opposes harming glades communities

Negron’s plan can be a win-win for Floridians everywhere, because ultimately we all want the same things: access to good jobs and safe, healthy places to live and raise our families.

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Has JP Sasser Lost His Mind?

Has Sunshine State News contributor J.P. Sasser lost his mind?!

“Out of this 40% unemployment, my argument is how much of that 40% is actually employable. How much of that 40% would get up and go to work every morning if there was a job available...very few.”
J.P. Sasser, One Florida Foundation, quoted in James Patterson’s documentary Murder of a Small Town (2015)

Did J.P. Sasser really say out loud that glades residents are lazy and unemployable? As a former mayor of Pahokee, how could he so rudely insult the people he once called constituents? Who knows why he said it, but he did, and all that can be said now is--at least we know what he thinks.

JP Sasser: Glades residents unemployable

Last week, Sasser alerted SSN executive director and bankrupt Mississippian Nancy Smith to a comment on our Facebook page dismissing the impact of job loss in the glades. Smith wrote in her blog that Sasser said the writer deserved a shout-out for saying what we really think about glades residents.

Is Nancy Smith really trying to smear Bullsugar with a random, unaffiliated Facebook comment, based on a tip from someone SSN is closely affiliated with, who has expressed offensive, embarrassing views about the glades communities? That’s just too rich.

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SB10 has to be a Win for Glades

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."

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Treasure Coast Republicans Face a Choice: Water or Sugar

The ugliest threat to SB 10, Senate President Joe Negron’s bill to cut toxic discharges to the Treasure Coast, may come from mercenary community leaders in his home district. While Martin county’s elected officials, led by Negron, have championed a solution to the crisis, local organizations with ties to Flint, Michigan-based US Sugar are scrambling to undermine the plan.

This week, the Republican Club of Martin County invited an outside critic of the proposal, Dan Peterson, to a local event where he campaigned against SB 10. Club President Darlene Fuggetta said that she recruited Peterson to speak against the bill because his opposition was objective compared to county residents who become emotional about toxic discharges. On top of being openly defiant to Negron and unsympathetic to a community that just spent 242 days under a state of emergency because of toxic algae blooms, Fuggetta’s choice of Peterson as a supposed “free-market” voice was bizarre.

Peterson represents the James Madison Institute, a self-described free market think tank best known for boasting about its “political jiu-jitsu” in support of last year’s ballot amendment to block solar energy competition -- essentially the opposite of a free-market initiative. Peterson’s endorsement of US Sugar’s position, opposing a discharge-reducing reservoir below Lake Okeechobee, also contradicts free-market ideals, supporting one of the state’s most big-government-dependent industries.

Contrast JMI’s pro-sugar position to that of Grover Norquist’s and the Heritage Foundation, a legitimate free-market think tank, calling Florida’s sugar industry and its market-distorting government support “cronyism in its undiluted, inexcusable majesty.”

Nevertheless Peterson took the stage on Tuesday to lobby on behalf of US Sugar and its cohorts against legislation proposed by republican officials to save local businesses, shore up a $9.7 billion fishing economy, and avert a catastrophically costly human health crisis. Fuggetta said that Peterson’s criticism of the bill was based in part on his grasp of the science, aided by extensive discussions with local expert Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society and a former South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resource Advisory Commission member. Perry has no recollection of ever speaking to Peterson.

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Devil Quotes the Scriptures: SFWMD Shapes Science to Lobby Against EAA Reservoir

Our state officials frequently remind people, "I'm not a scientist," but they don't let it stop them from arguing science.

The South Florida Water Management District recently tried to undermine Sen. Joe Negron's proposal to reduce toxic discharges, attempting to "shape" available science in a PR stunt. Their target was the dynamic reservoir planned south of Lake Okeechobee, which the sugar industry opposes.

SFWMD publicly claimed that studies support storage north of the lake as a substitute. This contradicts virtually every hydrologist's findings, including Dr. Thomas Van Lent whose research was attacked in official statements and a splattering of fake news.

The district claimed that its proof came from an independent University of Florida report by Dr. Wendy Graham. But it didn't. The modeling cited in Graham's report wasn't hers -- it was SFWMD's own model, referenced in Graham's report and clearly noted in her January 11 slide presentation to the senate subcommittee conducting a workshop on the issue (see slide below).

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