Malcom “Bubba” Wade can suck our infected water.

JENSEN BEACH — If Malcolm “Bubba” Wade felt a twinge of sympathy for the dumped-on St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, his glib tone did a fine job of masking it.

“Another red letter day for the Sugar Barons,” he said, apparently joking, during Thursday’s meeting of the Water Resources Advisory Commission, where his industry was booed by fed-up locals in the audience.

Wade, a vice president with U.S. Sugar Corp., then proceeded to criticize the one idea that advocates believe could bring real relief from the massive discharges of Lake Okeechobee water:

The construction of a “flow way” south.

“Just be careful about using as your No. 1 tactical weapon your flow way. I think it could backfire on you,” the mustachioed sugar exec said during the meeting at Indian RiverSide Park, where signs are posted warning of blue-green algae in the lagoon.

Mark Perry, another commission member and executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society, recently renewed the push for a flow way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. He and other river advocates say it offers a remedy to the releases that have prompted toxic algae blooms in the St. Lucie River.

But Wade didn’t want to give the concept any traction.

He claimed the idea — specifically the modified “Plan 6” proposal that would require buying 53,000 acres south of the lake — “didn’t make sense” when it was proposed years ago “and it makes no more sense today.”

He offered no alternative, just deflection of blame for the St. Lucie River’s current crisis.

“Your problem with that water is not us,” Wade told the commission, which advises the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board. “It’s north of the lake.”

His position of opposition shouldn’t surprise anyone.

U.S. Sugar and the state’s other giant sugar company, Florida Crystals, have sweet deals in the Everglades Agricultural Area. They get prime irrigation for their crops, and their industries are propped up by federal price supports in the Farm Bill.

What was surprising was how little pushback Wade got from the majority of the Water Resources Advisory Commission.

Kevin Powers, a Martin County native, is vice chair of the commission and of the water management district’s Governing Board. He lives on the St. Lucie River in Stuart, and his late father, Timer Powers, was a well-respected leader who helped broker landmark water deals.

Kevin Powers has an opportunity to emerge as a leader in this crisis, but he was largely silent Thursday.

As a start, he could help by reviving talks about buying more land south of the lake.

The South Florida Water Management District has six years remaining on an option to buy 107,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar.

Perry said the district should “absolutely” be talking about exercising the option.

Yes, it’s expensive.

Yes, it would take time to figure out how to use the land for a flow way.

But the toxic conditions in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are exacting a toll throughout the local economy.

It’s expensive, too.

And there’s no end in sight.

Charter fishing guide Mike Conner, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he’s driving clients more than 100 miles south in search of cleaner water.

During the past month, he has guided three paid trips. Last year, the number was 13.

He has tried to bill the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers for his lost income.

He’s still waiting for a response.

Wade may not think a man-made flow way makes sense.

Letting the damage to the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon continue is even more nonsensical.

Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.

 

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS
Malcolm Wade, a vice president for U.S. Sugar Corp., responds to suggestions of selling off property options for possible Lake Okeechobee discharges during the Water Resources Advisory Commission meeting discussing the state of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon in the Frances Langford Center at Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach on Thursday. “Ain’t gonna happen.”$RETURN$$RETURN$

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Human Chain to Protest Lake O Discharges

So so so so proud of all these folks.  Will it be enough to get our voices heard?

 

This screenshot taken from WPTV's Chopper 5 shows a human chain forming at the Indian River Lagoon rally Sunday in Stuart.Thousands of protesters stretched across Jensen and Stuart beaches Sunday as part of a rally against discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.

And they say they won’t stop protesting until they win the fight.

According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, between 2,000 to 2,500 people showed up to create the human chain across the Martin County shoreline, but organizers Evan Miller and Clint Starling estimates more than 5,000 took part.

“We connected the chain all the way to Jensen,” Miller said at Stuart Beach.

It was the second protest put on by Miller and Starling to challenge millions of gallons of water being discharged daily from the lake and local runoff into the Indian River Lagoon. A South Florida Water Management District official said last week there’s a good chance the lake releases will continue at some level through the winter and possibly into the spring.

Protesters arrived at the beaches wearing costumes and wielding signs expressing their displeasure with the state of the waterway.

More than 5,000 gathered at the first protest Aug. 3 at Phipps Park in Stuart.

“This is a remarkable event showing broad-based community support to demand cleaning up our waterways,” said Martin County Commissioner John Haddox at the Sunday rally.

Miller said another rally was in the works, but an exact date and time had not been set yet.

“I’m glad that people are coming out to show their support to save the lagoon,” said Mike Schneider of Hobe Sound. “It needs to be done. Change needs to happen now.”

Reader Comment: Committee Meeting

Another concerned citizen, Pam, sent in this info about a committee meeting on August 22.  The committee members will be discussing how to address the Okeechobee dumping and we can send in our comments.  See Pam’s note below on how to do so.  Thanks so much, Pam!! #savethelagoon !

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In case you do not yet have this info: go to http://www.flsenate.gov and click on “Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” for info on the August 22 workshop being held 1pm – 9pm at the Charles & Rae Kane Center, 900 SE Salerno Rd, Stuart.

The public may attend, and there will be time at the end of the meeting for “Public Testimony”. Sen. Joe Negron is the Chair of this Select Committee, along with 7 other FL Senators. When you go to the webpage, you can also click on the link “Workshop List of Participants” to see the names of those on each Panel, the agenda, invited officials and speakers. Their outline states “Specifically, participants will be asked to discuss the short term options or alternatives to reduce or eliminate the current releases from Lake Okeechobee”. On this site, there is a form to submit your comments to the Select Committee.

Another website for info on members of the Select Committee: http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/SIRO

Thanks for the great work you are doing to help save our Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River, marine life and wildlife. I read that Sanibel Island beaches are also being dumped on from Lake Okeechobee, via the Caloosahatchee River. The Mayor & City Coucil of Sanibel have written a letter to the Senate Select Committee, urging them to include the Caloosahatchee River with the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee issue.

I hope this info helps. It would be great if you could pass on this info, so people can make their voices heard to the committee before the hearing on Aug. 22.

Keep up the good work and keep the faith! Together, we can make a difference!

Pam Muse, Casselberry, FL