By Anita Stewart
What’s At Stake
One of the most important items on the ballot for Florida Voters in 2014 is Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Legacy. Rosemarie, a Hernando County volunteer described the Amendment, “…it will restore the funding Florida has used for decades that protects Florida’s water quality, wildlife habitats and natural beauty.”
In a state surrounded by water and green wild lands and our economy that depends so much on recreating on and near the water, our resources here in Florida are becoming minimal and endangered. Ever-worsening pollution, Big Oil, Big Sugar, Big Agriculture, the incorrect or illegal use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Red Tide, waste dumping and the actions of the corporations and our elected officials who have permitted these actions have created dangerous situations with our fragile environment.
The lawmakers’ ties, conflicts of interest and investments to the corporations and their involvement in assorted projects and land grabs have Florida citizens worried about whether our state will continue to remain a paradise and a prime vacation destination. Florida’s number one industry is Tourism to the tune of 85 billion dollars a year. If we don’t have clean water, beautiful beaches, tropical green forests that are teaming with wildlife, no one will want to come here to visit.
The Biggest Threats
FRACKING: Florida dodged a huge bullet earlier this year with the fight to save the world – renowned and very fragile Everglades from being fracked. This proposed site is contiguous to the last Florida Panther habitat and refuge. A statewide initiative was organized by the Stonecrab Alliance and included groups from all over the state taking part in marches to Governor Scott’s beachfront home, protests, meetings with City Hall, County Commissioners, letter writing campaigns and so much more has stopped this assault by the Corporations for now. But the activists know that the Corporations will be back. All of this happened at the same time as a proposed Restoration Project for the Everglades that would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
SABAL TRAIL NATURAL GAS PIPELINE: Liquified Natural Gas or LNG is planned for Florida with a huge pipeline intersecting the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. This pipeline is routed near several important aquifers, bodies of water and rivers in all three states. Especially endangered if there is a spill or accident is the Green Swamp in Central Florida as it provides almost all of the drinking water for the most populated metro area, Tampa Bay and feeds into five rivers. Pristine farmlands along the pipeline route will be land – grabbed through Eminent Domain. And this LNG will not lower our prices at the pump or create jobs. It is believed by many that this transported LNG will be moved from port facilities to the foreign markets.
OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING: April 20th, 2010 was the date that changed everything in the Gulf Region with the biggest oil disaster event in the United States. The offshore oil drilling continues and includes deepwater drilling, abandoned wells that are still “burping” and the regular use of the poisonous chemical “Corexit” (Corrects-It), has destroyed the Gulf waters, the marine habitats, the beaches, the marshes and killed the wildlife all along the Gulf Coast. Oyster populations have collapsed and genetic mutations have occurred (i.e., shrimp hatched with no eyes). Dolphins spontaneously abort their young and have horrific skin lesions. The Fishing Industry has been decimated in some parts of the Gulf Region and many others dependent on tourism have lost their livelihoods. As for the human impact and the sick and dying people from this disaster, BP has not paid out a single medical claim. And BP is back in the Gulf of Mexico as they have acquired new leases. So it is business as usual.
BIG SUGAR: US Sugar’s Plans to build 18,000 homes on land near Lake Okeechobee have raised concerns with certain government agencies such as the Water Management District and environmentalists because of potential flooding hazards. The multi million dollar Everglades Restoration Project needs this particular parcel of land to move and replenish water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Building in this area will create a suburban roadblock as it were. This area would be overburdened with any kind of suburban sprawl since the water and drainage systems were built for rural areas and agriculture. The proposal is up for consideration before the Army Corps of Engineers inspects Lake Okeechobee’s aging dike. US Sugar says they will be in operation for a long time and wanted to do long-term development with this property.
THE CONDITION OF THE SPRINGS AND LAKES: Florida’s springs are drying up. And many of the lakes and reservoirs are getting the run off from the draining of fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides overused or used incorrectly on pastures and farmlands. This is causing huge problems with water supplies and water usage throughout the state. After large direct actions and the forming of a coalition of environmental groups from throughout the state, the funding and plans for restoration are slowly coming in, but much more is needed.
SEA RISE: This is such a threat in southern Florida that when Floridians have long periods of rainfall; beaches, low lying areas and intracoastal strips of land are regularly flooded. This becomes a reality when we see people boogie boarding or water skiing down the streets. During storms and imminent weather threats, people in coastal and low lying areas are regularly directed by the local government to sandbag their properties in preparation for the onslaught of rising water. Science supports the reality of Sea Rise and people who have lived in this state for many years can visibly see the changes. Recently there has been a legitimate proposal introduced for the southern counties of Florida to secede and form a new state so funding can be granted to those areas that will be the most affected.
STORM SURGE: This is something we saw during the catastrophic hurricanes such as Andrew in Miami, Katrina in New Orleans, Florida’s No Name Storm that hit the central Gulf Coast and Sandy that hit New Jersey and New York City. Whole neighborhoods were inundated with the rising storm surge before, during and after the storm causing billions in damages. Anytime there is a threat of a storm, the water can rise from sea level to 20 – 25 feet or even more. Especially frightening and something to consider are the cooling pools in Florida’s nuclear reactors at Turkey Point and Crystal River. If a direct hurricane hits at these locations, the walls around the reactors are only 20 feet high. If the storm surge went higher than that level, the irradiated cooling pool water could be washed out to sea with the retreating flood water. Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant has been shut down, but the cooling pools are still there. Turkey Point Nuclear Power Reactor sustained damages during Hurricane Andrew and one of it’s towers was pulled and rebuilt. It is still in operation.
In short, people power. Florida needs people who are activists, but know their way around the government buildings of their counties and can attend commissioner’s meetings and town halls. They must be eager to read through pending legislation, proposals and bills. They must be able to check out the financial agreements being made by corporations regarding land and water use or acquiring of the same. Tenacious personalities that are always asking questions. Empowered citizens must be vigilant as those that would like to look at Florida’s precious resources as ways to make quick money, with no thought for the long-term or the impacts on the water supply will eventually come back to see if they can catch Floridian’s unaware and not paying attention.
Water is our most precious commodity and the Water Wars have begun.
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