Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS
 
 
 

Guest Commentary: Lake Okeechobee is huge ecological, water quality issue

March 13, 2019
By Larry Kiker , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Florida has a problem with Lake Okeechobee. It is a huge ecological and water quality issue for our state - and we must deal with it now.

It is time things changed, we cannot continue down a failed path. The key parts of my plan are:

It is time for a state law that establishes water quality standards that protect Lee County and all of Southwest Florida.

When water levels are regulated and polluted water flows through our waterways it becomes a very pointed problem for Lee County and all of Southwest Florida. Last year, our region, our county, our communities and our homes and businesses were devastated by the pollution that flowed down our streams, through our waterways, turning our rivers green and our red tide more deadly.

Until we understand who is most directly responsible, we don't know who and how to hold them accountable.

It would be great if it was as easy as the Lee County Commission passing a county ordinance to prohibit dumping polluted water into our waterways but that is actually illegal. The Water Resources Act of 1972 gives the state power to regulate all of Florida's waterways and prohibits local governments, city or county, from enforcing or passing any ordinance regarding waterways. So as a commission we have no direct authority.

What agency has the responsibility to insure that polluted water does not flow through our water ways? Is it the United States Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or SFWMD? The answer is none. At this time I could not find any state or federal requirement for SFWMD to not send polluted water downstream to our community.

In fact, the SFWMD fought in federal court and spent taxpayer dollars for the ability to flush toxic polluted water to our county, community and homes. They fought to prove the Clean Water Act did not apply to flushing their pollutants downstream.

Over the past 30 years, our state has given more and more power and authority to the SFWMD; an organization that certainly doesn't answer to the voters, whose executive director is selected by their own governing board, who are appointees themselves.

SFWMD spends literally billions, of state and federal dollars, are responsible for the Everglades cleanup effort, the leasing of state owned property, and overseeing water quality for 16 counties.

SFWMD's goal for reducing pollution standards into the Lake Okeechobee hasn't changed since 1994. The pollution reduction goal is 25 percent less pollutants than were released 1993. Yes, SFWMD has met that standard; however the standard hasn't improved for nearly a quarter of a century. SFWMD has simply met the same goal they had in 1994.

According to a 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, "Total phosphorus loading to the lake (Okeechobee) has not significantly declined over the 1974-2017 period of record." After 40 years, missed deadlines, voluntary compliance, passing the buck, fighting the Clean Water Act and Lake Okeechobee is just as polluted as it was in 1974?

It is time that we pursued effective long-term solutions to our clean water challenges, laws that will protect our environment and residents not blind lawsuits that will accomplish nothing.

Larry Kiker represent District 3 on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.

 
 

 

I am looking for:
in:
News, Blogs & Events Web