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Remain vigilant, stay involved, be vocal

December 27, 2018
North Fort Myers Neighbor

Saying they are tired of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers being treated as Florida's latrine, three environmental groups on Wednesday announced they will sue multiple federal agencies for their failure to recognize the effects pollutant-laden water discharges from Lake Okeechobee have on red tide.

"Even as the Red Tide wreaks havoc, the Corps keeps treating Florida's rivers like a toilet," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the entities that filed the notice to the Army Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. "Year after year our waterways are polluted, and the health and livelihoods of Floridians are threatened. Florida's residents, from fisherman to manatee, deserve better."

The Center for Biological Diversity is joined by the Calusa Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance. They contest the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to extend through 2025 a water management plan that allows Lake O discharges of "waters polluted with toxic, nutrient-rich agricultural waste" west into the Caloosahatchee and east into the St. Lucie.

The federal agencies have 60 days to respond to the claims.

While the thought of litigation always makes us wince, we understand the frustration that has prompted the action on the part of the water quality watchdogs. We Floridians, and the environment we call home, absolutely deserve better - much better- and we agree, it may well be time to put some bite behind our bark.

For if shorelines littered with dead fish by the ton, dozens of dolphins, sea turtles and manatees is not a wake-up call, the time for talk and promises is probably past.

Still, we would like to believe that our elected representatives - those who hold the purse strings and actually have legislative authority concerning the policies implemented by the agencies named - are willing to listen, are willing to address the crisis.

For make no mistake, we are in the midst of nothing short of a dire life and lifestyle crisis.

On our coast, Congressman Francis Rooney has been on top of the issue since he was first elected two years ago.

On the Treasure Coast, fellow first-termer Congressman Brian Mast also has made water quality a top priority.

We thank them for their efforts thus far and we urge them to continue the fight, which is, unfortunately, far from over as recent decisions to extend both discharges and sugar land leases plainly indicate.

We also urge the public to remain vocal and vigilant.

While red tide has relaxed along Lee County's "back-to-normal" beaches in time for the start of season, and while the blue-green algae that slimed our canals is mostly a bad memory, we cannot forget the Environmental Hurricane of 2018.

It's harm was far greater than the visible damage of dead sealife and pea-green canals.

Habitats died.

And those seagrass beds and hatcheries are going to take years to recover.

We can help Congressman Mast quantify the harm to our environmental and our economy by taking part in his survey found at .

And, on the state level, we can let our governor-elect, Ron DeSantis, know what we think about the actions of the South Florida Water Management District Board concerning the backdoor lease extention affecting state-owned land earmarked for water projects and the board's rejection of city-requested Lake O water level changes and discharge schedules.

Water management board members are appointed by the governor with the existing panel having been appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Governor-elect DeSantis's pre-inaugural website is

-Neighbor editorial



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