Monday, March 16, 2015

More than 100 residents protest State’s sugar land inaction

More than a hundred residents from Central, Southwest and Southeast Florida protested Governor Rick Scott and his appointed water managers outside the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) headquarters last week for failing to acquire 48,600 acres of US Sugar land to restore the Everglades and protect the coasts from pollution.

Water Managers faced a four-hour gauntlet of speakers who questioned why the SFWMD only presented a report about “constraints,” rather than “opportunities.”

“The real constraint is the lack of political will,” said Art Broughton, a Palm Beach County resident. Many in the crowd wore “Send it South” stickers and held “Buy the Land” signs.

According to a University of Florida study, the land purchase must be considered to stop marine life die-offs in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River basins and along the Indian River Lagoon.
The SFWMD has a contractual option to purchase the land by an October deadline, but water managers have failed to the take the needed actions so that appraisals can begin and Amendment One funds can be used.

During the protest a Sugar Daddy dressed in costume bought off individuals posing as water managers with fake money while protesters held signs and solidarity fish.

“We have been showing up at the South Florida Water Management District each month, growing in numbers, asking these decision-makers for public discussion about the State’s contracted option to acquire land from U.S. Sugar, and we have been ignored” said Cara Capp, National Chair of the Everglades Coalition.

"The Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District have an exceptional opportunity to support the state purchase of U.S. Sugar land necessary to store, treat and convey water south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, said Ray Judah, president of the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. "Moving forward proactively to obtain the available land to secure the last piece of the puzzle to restore the Everglades and prevent further harm to our coastal estuaries would be the most cost effective and efficient solution for the public taxpayers."

“The purchase can solve the problems of getting sufficient water for the Everglades and greatly reducing the damaging pulses of polluted fresh water to the northern estuaries,” said Laura Reynolds, executive director of Tropical Audubon Society. “While delivering much needed clean water to the southern estuaries, for these reasons, we strongly back the purchase of the U.S. Sugar lands.”

“If we don't buy the land to send the water south, our estuary dies and the Everglades dies and Miami loses its water supply, said former Martin County commissioner and activist Maggy Hurchalla.

“The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District is putting the demands of U.S. Sugar ahead of its mandate to provide clean water,” said Drew Martin of Sierra Club Florida. “The State of Florida should work for clean water, not for Big Sugar.”

"In the future, history will judge today. History will judge whether the people had the will to force the hand of their government, and whether the government had any sense of righteousness and responsibility to the people,” said Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, commissioner for the Town of Sewall's Point.

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