Stuart boat captain Alek Loudakis grew up near the St. Lucie Lock, on water he described as “crystal clear and blue, almost like being in the Bahamas.” Today, he calls it “murky, dead, polluted.”
He is so angry that decades of efforts to stop the polluting discharges from Lake Okeechobee have come to naught that he is petitioning President Barack Obama’s administration to put an end to it.
As of July 25, 883 people had joined him, signing a whitehouse.gov “We the People” online petition Loudakis posted July 19 with the help of longtime friend and Stuart resident James Hill.
Loudakis wants water to flow south to the Everglades but says Big Sugar with its big campaign contributions is standing squarely in the way.
“Death rides a pale horse and drinks from dirty water,” Loudakis said. “The fish are dying, the dolphins and manatees are dying, the pompano are gone and the fresh polluted water keeps coming out of the lake.”
He needs 100,000 signatures by Aug. 19 to get a response from the federal government. If he doesn’t reach his goal, which he said he assumed he won’t, he’ll start a new petition.
“I’ve been watching this for a long time,” he said. “So many people have tried so hard and it’s all come to nothing.”
Loudakis said he signed Steven Cottrell’s change.org online petition to Gov. Rick Scottasking for an end to the discharges as well. Cottrell’s petition had 6,116 signatures by July 25.
Cottrell said he will send his petition to the governor July 26, but keep it open and send it to Scott each time he gets 2,500 more signatures.
“I plan to be a thorn in the governor’s side,” Cottrell said. “This is something that unites Democrats and Republicans, and there’s an election coming up in a year and a half.”
Leon Abood, chairman of the Rivers Coalition, said he supports both initiatives.
“I am personally pleased and rejuvenated by the amount of community support we have, and any initiative that anyone wants to take is great,” he said.
Cottrell and Loudakis said they were outraged the governor said Treasure Coast waters are not important enough to the state’s economy to merit special treatment or funding.
“I find that Rick Scott is very ignorant of what’s going on,” Loudakis said. “He has vetoed funding for research on the problems that caused these marine life deaths and the destruction of our estuaries. He takes contributions from Big Sugar, which is a leech on taxpayers and is trashing my backyard with our own tax dollars. I’m sending my petition to Obama because we have to try to find a way to go around local government.”