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What Are We Celebrating?

By Chris Maroney

As you've probably heard, Senate President's Joe Negron's EAA Reservoir bill passed the Florida legislature this week. 

You've also probably heard the bill was watered down, and it was -- but make no mistake: this is a real victory. So what are we celebrating?

Progress, and most of all, unity. When Bullsugar formed nearly three years ago, Floridians were in the dark about the key to stopping toxic discharges and restoring the Everglades. Today, they are much better informed. In the last year, organizations, businesses, and individuals across Florida united to demand that the state expedite the most critical project in CERP, the EAA Reservoir. This demand was presented in a short, simple statement of support for long-established science and basic economics called the Now or Neverglades Declaration.

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Top Blog Posts

What Are We Celebrating?

By Chris Maroney

As you've probably heard, Senate President's Joe Negron's EAA Reservoir bill passed the Florida legislature this week. 

You've also probably heard the bill was watered down, and it was -- but make no mistake: this is a real victory. So what are we celebrating?

Progress, and most of all, unity. When Bullsugar formed nearly three years ago, Floridians were in the dark about the key to stopping toxic discharges and restoring the Everglades. Today, they are much better informed. In the last year, organizations, businesses, and individuals across Florida united to demand that the state expedite the most critical project in CERP, the EAA Reservoir. This demand was presented in a short, simple statement of support for long-established science and basic economics called the Now or Neverglades Declaration.

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Congratulations to Eric Burnett, Winner of the Bullsugar.org Custom Nautilus Reel!

Eric Burnett is the quintessential Florida sportfisherman. Fishes for lots of species, salt and fresh. Appreciates world-class fisheries. And top-quality tackle. Fly fishes with professional guides. Worries about their future and about the next generation's chances to fish these waters. Doesn't live here.

"I treasure the moments when I'm able to spend fly fishing," he says. "Fishing in areas like the Everglades or the Keys allows me to challenge my abilities and experience an entirely different world. By protecting areas like these, I get more opportunities to enjoy them in the future, and my son gets a chance to enjoy them after I'm gone."

 

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Shared Adversity? Caloosahatchee Salinity Reaches Lethal Levels While Sugar Thrives

For the last month, the Caloosahatchee estuary hasn't gotten the freshwater it needs to survive. This week salinity levels at Ft. Myers climbed high enough to kill tape grass, the lifeline for virtually everything in this environment.

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The Richest Waterway in North America. And We're Killing It.

Florida is home to the most biodiverse marine environment in North America. It's not the Everglades. Or Florida Bay. Or the Gulf Coast. More species live in the St. Lucie and Indian River Lagoon than in any other waterway on the continent. Dr. Grant Gilmore of Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc. has spent decades exploring and documenting an incredible array of life here.

Meanwhile Florida's sugar industry and water managers have spent decades regularly blasting toxic pollution into it. Somehow, despite massive reductions in seagrass beds and plummeting fish and shellfish populations, this amazing estuary isn't dead.

Dr. Gilmore shared some insight about the St. Lucie estuary and the unique environment Treasure Coast residents have been fighting to protect, and why there’s no other place like it in North America:

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The St. Lucie: North America's Most Biodiverse Estuary

Dr. Grant Gilmore of the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council identified hundred of species within a few miles of the St. Lucie estuary, making it North America's most biodiverse.
Illustration: The St. Lucie is North America's Most Diverse Estuary
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This is How Medical Professionals Respond to a Crisis

by Allie Preston

Leaders generally don't answer a crisis with, "Let us do nothing."

A week after the Economic Council of Martin County sponsored a robot telemarketing blitz urging residents to do nothing to support legislation to cut toxic discharges, Martin Health System’s leadership broke with the group and demanded action. As the area’s biggest employer, Martin Health System took a stand for the Treasure Coast economy and public health, demonstrating how community leaders and medical professionals respond to emergencies.

As sugar lobbyists fought with lawmakers in Tallahassee over revisions to weaken Joe Negron’s SB 10, CEO Rob Lord stood behind Martin Memorial Hospital, on a dock overlooking the St. Lucie River, and declared support for the Now Or Neverglades principles of the bill to stop toxic cyanobacteria blooms from destroying the fragile waterway. Amid rounds of applause, he voiced the need to purchase land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to store, treat, and send clean freshwater south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, and not to coastal estuaries.

Lord and Dr. Steve Parr, director of emergency medicine, described last summer’s increases in emergency room visits when toxic algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee were at their worst. The spike in cases potentially linked to the toxins convinced them there was no other option than to treat the bloom as a public health crisis. They spoke of precautions similar to “the Ebola situation,” and warned residents of the remaining dangers lurking in the muck beneath the surface, and of effects that people who were exposed to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) may still be years away from seeing.

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Algae Reached Islamorada This Week

On Wednesday, during the height of tourist season, a large algae bloom appeared off Islamorada, lapping the docks at Worldwide Sportsman. Worldwide is part of Bass Pro Shops, the largest retail fishing company in the world; thousands of visitors are going to see this. On Thursday Keys fishing guides took a day off work to spell the word 'HELP' with their flats skiffs in the affected area.

wide_angle_HELP_guides.jpg

Is Tallahassee paying attention? Maybe. Also on Thursday dozens of people from South Florida — doctors, fishing guides, boat builders, realtors — traveled north to speak before the Florida Senate Appropriations committee in favor of SB10, the bill that will create a dynamic reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, to send clean freshwater to Florida Bay and ease the cycles that trigger algae blooms. The bill passed committee, and heads to the senate floor next.

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Florida’s Water Management System is Broken. The CRC Can Fix it.

By Peter Girard

Florida’s water management system is broken. Water management districts are political and dysfunctional. Private interests routinely hoard freshwater, pass flood risks to residential communities, and dump pollution into public waterways.

Led by the biggest and most powerful South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), these organizations answer only to the governor, who is allowed by law to appoint donors and friends to their boards. The result is that water management districts’ leadership, budgets, and policies are controlled by the same users they were designed to regulate.

This is exactly the kind of systematic failure this year’s Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) was created to fix. In a tropical climate whose economy, public health, and environment depends on the fragile balance of freshwater, Florida’s water management districts may be our most important government institutions. Making them democratic and accountable could be the most important contribution the CRC can make to our future.

Because their governing boards are political appointees, the districts have always been prone to capture by the highest bidder; and the sugar industry, with its massive water requirements and equally massive taxpayer subsidies, has no trouble outbidding everyone else. But the industry never openly controlled the SFWMD the way it has under the Scott administration.

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