Stop toxic algae blooms! “Buy the land and send the water south"!

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“Buy the land and send the water south” so ocean life killing toxins can be filtered naturally as the contaminated water makes its journey through grassy swampland to the Florida Bay. If this happened, the natural order would be restored.

Background:

  • In 2008 when then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced the Florida and U.S. Sugar had reached an agreement under which Florida would buy out the company, including its land, about 180,000 acres, and send the water south again. Toxins would be laundered naturally as the water made its long journey through grassy swampland to the Florida Bay. The natural order would be restored.
  • But state officials purchased only one-seventh of the land. Ten years later, the Florida shows no interest in exercising its option to buy the rest, an option that’s good through 2020. This, despite an overwhelming vote by Floridians in 2014 to accept a tax specifically to buy the land. The tax, a documentation fee on real estate transactions, is being collected but the legislature isn’t using the revenue to buy the land!
  • The purchase of the land was expected to revive a multibillion-dollar plan to turn farm fields back into marshes and waterways that would help cleanse polluted Everglades water and carry it from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

Why are algae blooms happening?

  • Lake Okeechobee is one of the nation’s largest lakes, the wellspring of the Everglades and the freshwater heart of South Florida.
  • For 6,000 years, excess groundwater has spilled over the southern rim of the lake, nourishing the Everglades before draining into the Florida Bay.
  • To make way for the sugar cane fields, engineers raised and fortified the lake’s southern shore, funneling all that excess groundwater through an array of canals, levees and pumping stations into two rivers that then dump it into the sea along Florida’s east and west coasts.
  • This cleared the way for the cane fields, but choked off water to the rest of the Everglades. It also infected the two rivers and South Florida’s coastlines with toxic algae.
  • The phosphorus pollution starts with runoff from suburbs, golf courses and farms well north of the lake. It drains into the Kissimmee River. From there, it flows into Lake Okeechobee. During periods of heavy rain, the lake water, laced with phosphorus, is discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and eventually the sea. Along its journey, the phosphorus nourishes plant life, causing algae blooms, which decreases the amount of oxygen available for aquatic animals. This, plus the fact that the excess fresh water pouring into the ocean reduces the salinity of coastal estuaries, is killing ocean life.
  • Environmental degradation is only part of the price the public pays so private companies can turn sugar into money. These tropical wetlands have been drained and maintained for decades at great expense for the benefit of Florida’s sugar cane industry, which is dominated by two politically connected companies. Florida’s two largest sugar companies – Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar – have given federal candidates and federal lobbyists millions in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles federal campaign finance data. Florida Crystals, which includes the Domino brand, is owned by the Fanjul family.
  • Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on a regional flood control system that keeps the cane fields from flooding during periods of heavy rain and irrigated during droughts.
  • Adding to the public cost, the national sugar program requires American consumers to pay twice the world price for sugar through a blend of import quotas, tariffs and loan guarantees.
  • The sugar cane farm area is home to only about 40,000 people that are economically dependent on sugar cane farming. By contrast, some 6+ million people live in the coastal zone affected by the algae – a region fueled by a great diversity of commercial activity, but especially tourism.

“Buy the land and send the water south” so ocean life killing toxins can be filtered naturally as the contaminated water makes its journey through grassy swampland to the Florida Bay. If this happened, the natural order would be restored.



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