|Lake Okeechobee from space |
(Okeechobee, FL) Today, at the 16 County Ecosystem Summit of the County Coalition for Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, and Lake Worth Lagoon, representatives of many environmental organizations involved in Everglades restoration presented a collective message to the residents and leaders of the Glades communities.
Organizations that signed the statement include Sierra Club, Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for The Everglades, Audubon Florida, Audubon Society of the Everglades, Bullsugar.org, Captains for Clean Water, Clean Water Action, Everglades Foundation, Everglades Law Center, Everglades Trust, Florida Oceanographic Society, Florida Wildlife Federation, Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Indian Riverkeeper, International Dark-Sky Association FL Chapter, Naples Backcountry Fly Fishers, National Parks Conservation Association, Reef Relief, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Save the Manatee Club, South Florida Audubon Society, and Tropical Audubon Society.
Cris Costello, Sierra Club Senior Regional Representative, representing the 22 organizations, read the statement into the record:
“We want to set the record straight - here is where we stand:
● We share common ground with the residents of the Glades communities – by working together we can develop win-win solutions.
● We extend an open invitation to meet with Glades residents and leaders at their convenience.
● We oppose the flooding of any Glades community. Any claim to the contrary is false and very likely made up by the sugar industry.
● Raising Lake Okeechobee water levels to store more water will hurt the lake and its fishery and increase the risk of flooding to communities around the lake.
● We support strengthening the Herbert Hoover Dike as quickly as possible.
● We support science-based restoration. The need for additional land to store and treat water within the boundaries of the Everglades Agricultural Area is well-documented by many scientists and government agencies.
● More land in the EAA is needed to restore the Everglades and Florida Bay, to stop harmful discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, to reduce pressure on the Herbert Hoover Dike, and to ensure the water supply for 8 million South Floridians.
● Planning for water storage within the EAA must include all stakeholders – Glades residents, environmentalists, business owners, farmers, and sugar-industry representatives – and it should begin immediately.
● State Senator Joe Negron’s land purchase proposal, from willing sellers, would help implement CERP, which includes a critical project for water storage. An EAA storage project has been an integral part of CERP since its adoption and will be managed to ensure the safety of all South Florida residents.
● Glades interests have participated in the CERP public planning process since its inception in 2000; however the sugar industry has dominated the conversation on behalf of interests located within the Everglades Agricultural Area.
● We welcome and support the right of Glades residents to hear and be heard.
● We believe it is possible to implement a transition from the current economy of the Glades to a diverse, robust economy that includes sugar, but is not wholly dependent upon sugar.
● We stand with Glades residents and share the same goals: clean water to drink and play in, safe and healthy places to live, and economically sustainable jobs.”
Handouts containing the same message were distributed to officials and the public.