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  • Nyla Pipes

Don't blame farmers south of Lake O for polluted discharges

It is pointless to continue blaming farmers south of Lake Okeechobee for the recent discharges by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has been repeatedly shown by state and federal agencies that more than 90% of the water and pollution enter Lake O from areas north of the lake. Regardless of power or politics, sugarcane farmers to the south cannot change the geography of the system or how its water flows.

The people of Florida have dedicated enormous taxpayer dollars at both the state and local level in record amounts (billions of dollars) to restore our Everglades and estuaries. At every turn, some so-called enviro group, activist or publicity-seeking hack goes to the media attacking Glades farmers. This may help them raise money or publicity but it does nothing to solve the real water issues. The proof is glaringly obvious in the current discharges that the East and West coast estuaries are enduring.

While everyone was blaming the sugarcane and vegetable farmers south of Lake Okeechobee and making them clean every last bit of water on the farms, nothing was being done at the real source of the problem—north of Lake Okeechobee. In fact, every single time stopping the flow of water BEFORE it entered the lake, funding technology to store and clean the water north of Lake Okeechobee was mentioned, the environmental activists tried to shut it down. Again, and again.

South Florida dealt with discharges and coastal algae issues, lost summers, and then hurricanes and Red Tide. The new Lake O schedule was endlessly discussed and debated. In the end, LOSOM (the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual) was basically hijacked to prioritize the St. Lucie Estuary over other project functions, including the health of the lake itself. Meanwhile the environmental community was totally onboard with giving the Corps unlimited “flexibility” while removing less harmful, earlier dry season releases to the East Coast from the toolbox. Thus, the heavier discharges we’re seeing now. That’s what is insane.


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