Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

April 2016 Prez Sez

Last year relatives of mine decided to buy a small RV on a lot in Ft Myers Beach.  They spent six months there, snowbirds from Wisconsin.  They really enjoyed the fact that they could easily bicycle to the beach for an afternoon swim in clear, blue water.

But something happened this year.  The Gulf Coast water has developed the same type of brown algal bloom we are seeing in the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon.  What happened is that the huge amounts of rain over the past few months caused authorities to dump large amounts of nutrient-rich water from the Lake Okeechobee area directly through the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf.  The resulting algal bloom is doing the same there as here.  Smelly water and fish die-offs are the order of the day.

The management of the park in which the relatives reside tells them that people are leaving early, and in hotels people are canceling reservations for the summer and hotel managers in the Fort Meyers area are already lowering their room rates.  Looks like a bad season for the hospitality sector.  Not to mention the fishing industry and the fishing guide business.  And maybe tourism as a whole.

Too bad for them that they did not pay off the guys in Tallahassee more.  The water law that passed was agriculture-friendly, with Big Sugar being the biggest contributor.  

Among the provisions in the new law is a measure that directs water management districts to manage the water in Lake Okeechobee in a way that favors agriculture’s need for irrigation over the needs for conservation and protection.

Other parts of the law instruct the DEP to develop and provide best management practices for managing pollution-containing run-offs into the State’s waters and put the onus on the farmers, ranchers and others to implement them and to police themselves.  These are more suggestions than regulations.

And so the springs are getting worse, our rivers and even the Gulf are becoming cesspools, visitors are canceling their reservations and the hospitality and tourism industries are suffering.  But Big Sugar is reveling in their success and the lawmakers in Tallahassee are reveling in their new wealth.