The USvArmy Corp of Engineers (USACE) is accepting public input on a ten-year plan for water releases from Lake Okeechobee. Repeatedly, the ACoE tells us that water quality is Florida’s responsibility; their mission is to “move it,” clean or toxic, and it has chosen preferred “Plan CC” for releases.
They continually speak about “balance” for stakeholders—the estuaries, residents, and farmers to the south. What’s factual is that every Floridian is a stakeholder. Moving toxic water achieves zero balance for Floridians. So long as the discussion revolves around moving toxic waters instead of moving clean water, there is no preferred plan but one: clean the waters.
Clean waters have been discussed for decades. With this comes talk of “shared adversity,” meaning who gets harmed, who doesn’t, and let’s share the toxic water equally. Fighting about who gets toxic waters is nonsensical instead of talking about sources of the pollution. Thirty-year-old plans, the Modified Water Deliveries and 68 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Projects have yet to be completed. Billions spent. No Clean water. Water trickles south. Extensive public input has produced no improvements.
Now, Florida’s leading advocacy groups are being co-opted again to think their opinions on “Plan CC” will bring effective change. Change in moving toxic waters for ten more years?
I’m a victim of shared diversity. Being a boat captain, I fulfilled a dream to own a waterfront motel and give water tours in Matlacha, Florida. Today, Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve resembles chicken gravy more than water and is unsafe for residents, some hospitalized due to hydrogen sulfide gases of rotting algae. Justifying profit over potential harm was not an option for me. I opine legislators think differently. Clean waters bring businesses. Toxic waters bring economic collapse and an exodus. Clean waters are everything sustainable for Florida, but sustainability is waning quickly.
Current legislators, not directly responsible for decades of degradation, must be held accountable. They fail to act because they operate within a framework of governance where every decision is based on regulatory agency rules of what can and cannot be done, rules created by Florida’s biggest polluters.
Corporations influence legislators to enact regulations allowing them to pollute with impunity. It is a fixed, failed, system that must be changed if we hope to pull away from the imminent point of no return for clean waters. Legislators must look to the sources of the pollution, the corporations, to save our waters. The ACoE’s newest attempt is a perfect example of the failed system operation.
There is hope. We, the people, can choose to take charge of the process. We stop waiting decades for failed decision makers to act. We recapture our constitutional right to self-governance and create a new law. A law for legal, constitutionally framed rights to clean waters recognized as the highest level of protection achievable. A law that moves environmental enforcement into the hands of Florida’s residents and away from those beholden to corporate will.
The human right to clean water should be sacred but is not. No longer can we work within the failed framework. We must follow a new paradigm of protections for all of Florida’s waters. Time is of the essence as we have an emergency, but no declaration is issued.
The Florida Rights of Nature Network (FRONN.org) champions the now active Florida State constitutional “Right to Clean Water Amendment” petition that will be the 16-pound hammer to break the rigged system which allows our waters to become toxic. Be the change. Visit FL5.org, make the preferred choice. Choose clean waters over toxic waters. Print, sign, share, and mail in your petition today.