MIAMI HERALD: Court reinstates EPA rule to allow pumping dirty water unchecked

Miami Herald: January 19, 2017. Written by Jenny Staletovich

South Florida water managers can keep moving dirty water from farms and suburbs into the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee without obtaining federal pollution permits, a divided U.S. appeals court ruled this week in New York.

The ruling stems from a decades-long battle by the Miccosukee Tribe and environmentalists to stop water managers from moving water from one body of water to another — for supplies, flood control or other purposes — without first obtaining a federal pollution permit. Dirty water has been at the heart of Everglades restoration, where marshes can quickly get choked by water rich in nutrients. Similar cases eventually surfaced around the country, with sporting groups and environmentalists similarly fighting to keep dirty water from natural areas.

Wednesday’s decision, the result of consolidating a number of cases before New York’s 2nd Circuit court, means the South Florida Water Management District can continue moving water unchecked, which environmentalists directly blame for fouling the Everglades.

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SUN SENTINEL: Protect the Everglades, not sugar farmers

Sun Sentinel: January 18, 2017. Written by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.

Senate President Joe Negron sees "extraordinary progress" on one of Florida's most important environmental restoration projects. We hope that he's right.

That project is a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that would produce two big benefits. It would reduce — and possibly eliminate — the need to dump polluted water into fragile coastal estuaries when the lake rises high enough to threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike. It also would provide water to re-hydrate Everglades National Park.

Negron represents Martin County, where last year massive discharges during a wet winter again caused algae blooms in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon and closed beaches. Last week, a Florida Senate subcommittee heard testimony on Negron's idea for the 60,000-acre reservoir. Negron proposes that the state and federal government each pay half of the $2.4 billion cost.

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EYE ON MIAMI: Big Sugar hires 64 lobbyists, again, in Tallahassee to reinforce its closed loop system of government

Eye on Miami: January 18, 2017. Written by Gimleteye

Peoples' memories are short. Apparently in Tallahassee, few recall what happened only one year ago after historic rainfall in mid-winter, normally Florida's dry season, filled Lake Okeechobee to the brim and caused water managers to freak out.

Lake Okeechobee is the diseased, liquid heart of Florida. For more than seventy years and until very recently, the lake was used by Big Sugar -- that farms on hundreds of thousands of acres around the lake, mostly around its southern half -- as its cesspit. 

In wet season, Big Sugar used to routinely pump water off its fields back into the Lake. That runoff was laden with fertilizer and other chemicals, like sulfate, used to increase crop yields. In dry season, Big Sugar would pump water back onto its fields, nourishing the most heavily subsidized agricultural crop in America. 

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TCPALM: Letter: St. Lucie River is part of my family -- and yours, Sen. Negron

TCPalm: January 12, 2017. Written by Becky Bruner.

The St. Lucie is the river closest to my heart. Each year she must deal with billions of gallons of fresh water she can't take but which is dumped on her. All I can do is watch as she tries to revive herself once more.

The old dark river has done this religiously for 80 years, but time is running out on her. My heart aches.

As a child I played on her banks. Thinking of myself as Huckleberry Finn, I made a homemade raft to float on her.

My first encounter with an alligator was at her south fork. I learned to water ski on her north fork.

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BRADENTON HERALD: Sen. Joe Negron’s smart next step for Everglades

Bradenton Herald: January 12, 2017. Written by Editorial Board.

There should be no doubt that the Florida Legislature should move forward with a sensible plan to create more water storage space south of Lake Okeechobee to achieve the goals of the multibillion-dollar Everglades cleanup effort. That is critical for easing the dumping of toxic lake water onto the eastern and western coasts, replenishing South Florida’s drinking water supply and increasing the flow of water to replenish the Everglades basin. The science is settled and the money exists, and lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott should act in the interests of public health and the state’s economy.

Wednesday’s workshop by a Senate committee marked the first serious airing of a proposal by Senate President Joe Negron to build a new reservoir south of the lake. Unusually heavy rains last year forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release tens of billions of gallons of tainted water from the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, a flood control effort aimed at stabilizing lake levels and protecting property owners to the south.

TCPALM: Analysis: Sugar growers' ad blasts Lake Okeechobee reservoir plan

TCPalm: January 13, 2017. Written by Tyler Treadway.

"'Buy the land' is a scam," a sugar-growing cooperative claims in a Jan. 6 full-page ad in Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Attributed to the "Florida Sugarcane Farmers," a consortium of U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, the ad argues against Senate President Joe Negron's proposal to buy 60,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area and build a reservoir there to help stop Lake Okeechobee discharges that pollute the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

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NEWS CHIEF: Palmer: Fight for Everglades is nothing new

News Chief: January 14, 2017. Written by Tom Palmer.

Any discussion of the restoration of the Everglades should begin with Marjory Stoneman Douglas' eloquent declaration 70 years ago in her famous work, "The Everglades: River of Grass."

It is the effort to restore that historic river of grass, which once flowed unimpeded and unpolluted from Lake Okeechobee through the park to Florida Bay, that is at the heart of the current Everglades restoration effort.

It is also at the heart of the political fight playing out before the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Legislature over where to spend money to advance that restoration.

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TCPALM: Eve Samples: Buy the land south of Lake Okeechobee- don't buy the excuses

TCPalm: January 13, 2017. Written by Eve Samples.

State lawmakers have every reason to pull the trigger on buying land south of Lake Okeechobee this year. These are the biggies:

  • Toxic algae is fresh in our memories: It choked the St. Lucie River last summer, following months of polluted discharges from Lake O. It was one of the worst blooms in decades.
  • The new Florida Senate president, Joe Negron, is from Stuart — ground zero for the toxic algae — and has proposed a land buy to prevent such devastation from happening again and again.
  • Money is available: Voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 specifically to fund conservation projects. It's expected to raise $10 billion over 20 years.

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TCPALM: Opposition to Joe Negron's Lake Okeechobee land buy shapes up and it's strong

TCPalm: January 13, 2017. Written by Isadora Rangel.

When Senate President Joe Negron announced his plan to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges last year, he acknowledged his upcoming challenge: to convince the Legislature to fund it.

That challenge began taking shape Wednesday as the Senate had its first meeting to discuss how to curb discharges.

The state agency that would execute Negron's plan, the South Florida Water Management District, refutes the basic premise of his proposal: the need to buy land to build a reservoir south of the lake. The district also has argued with the main group backing Negron's proposal, the Everglades Foundation, over the benefits of storing water south of the lake.

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MIAMI HERALD: Big Sugar’s slime flows north to the Capitol

Miami Herald: January 15, 2017. Written by Carl Hiaasen.

The paid soldiers in Gov. Rick Scott’s war on the environment are aligning to block state efforts to purchase any farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee, which means Floridians can look forward to more summers of slime.

Nightmare algae blooms, vile and job-killing, are destined to be one of Scott’s legacies. Next June, when the St. Lucie estuary again turns puke-green and the oyster beds die, the light-footed governor will be nowhere in the vicinity.

Neither will the tourists.

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