News-Press

November 09, 2016

Water summit delivers solutions, but are things really changing?

 

Paul Reynolds

http://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/2016/11/09/water-summit-delivers-solutions-but-things-really-changing/93486000/

 

Much thanks to The News-Press for hosting the recent Market Watch Save Our Water summit and to the 400 folks motivated to attend. For some, like me, it was an opportunity to catch up with activists and stakeholders, to reflect on plan implementations and to measure progress. Unfortunately some things seem to be changing, but they really are not.

The purpose for our once treasured Lake Okeechobee, rivers and the Everglades was changed. The lake became a storage reservoir and the connected rivers became drainage canals, so that an agricultural industry might flourish to the south.

The industry became legendary and even celebrated in movie, name (Big Sugar) and political impact. Its product is damaging to land and air and is so inefficient to deliver that it requires massive price support from American taxpayers. Now, thanks to the Agricultural Act of 2014, it even drives user companies out of the country.

Thanks to the misplaced generosity of taxpayers, the industry has a huge discretionary income to fulfill their every water need. From stored irrigation reserves, to thousands of acres to send water when there is too much, or blast it down the rivers where it redefines coastal lifestyles and industries. What the industry can’t influence through contribution, its campaign budget creates fear for politicians who might dissent. It has stacked governing agencies, like the South Florida Water Management District, and now that the infrastructure is in place, the industry portrays itself as victims, eager to join efforts to fix the system and make it fair. Don't you believe it.

The path we’re on is to spend huge sums on ancillary projects that have little influence on the core problems as pollution flows unimpeded from the north and is discharged east and west when too much accumulates. The current “solutions” are ridiculous. Chief among them are plans to create several junior Lake O reservoirs around the state with the accompanying algae farm and danger to surrounding communities. It's even suggested that we should pipe this precious, though contaminated, commodity deep into the ground.

Here's the emergency. If we don't implement, at this very moment, a marsh filtered flow to the south, we will continue to create lifeless rivers, estuaries, coastal beaches inundated with dead fish from red tide and red drift algae. The smoking gun that follows is that the farming use of the land will slowly go away but may be replaced by housing developments. It will make New Orleans look like the safest community in America if there is no flow way discharge system in place to send water south.

Paul Reynolds, a resident of Fort Myers, is a citizen member of The News-Press editorial board.