Friday, November 17, 2017
Politics

Fishing guides arrive in Tallahassee to say 'we need help' to save Florida Bay

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — Fishing guides who rely on Florida Bay and other fragile waterways arrived in the capital Tuesday to plead with lawmakers to follow through on the goal of buying land to build a water-storing reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

"We're not up here to play politics,'' said Daniel Andrews, founder of Captains for Clean Water from Southwest Florida. "We're here to say we have a need and we need help."

More than two dozen fishing guides and their families spent the day meeting with more than 40 legislators and staff to urge them to support a plan by Senate President Joe Negron to build a deep-water reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that will store and clean water to flow into Florida Bay and alleviate the need to discharge polluted water into estuaries. The full Senate is expected to take up the bill on Wednesday.

"The bay is constantly on the verge of collapse and we get a lot of water, it's just enough water and when we don't get enough water, it's devastating,'' said Steve Friedman, a back-country fishing guide from Islamorada.

Last week Friedman organized a protest of Florida Keys fishing guides who assembled their skiffs in Florida Bay, spelling the word "Help!" in an aerial message intended for Tallahassee.

"The way I see this, the wick has been lit, so we don't have more time for delays," Friedman said Tuesday before he met with legislators and staff. "We don't have more time for politics. It's about doing the right thing."

He and his colleagues said they are baffled at the failure of the political system to respond to a crisis that is costing people's livelihoods and jobs when the notion of buying land for a southern reservoir was agreed to by the state, the federal government and the agricultural industry in 2000.

Negron's plan, SB 10, would cost $1.5 billion and rely on federal money for half. It would convert 14,000 acres of state land now used as a shallow reservoir to build a deep-water reservoir. Negron, R-Stuart, restructured the proposal last week in the face of intense opposition from the sugar industry and residents of the Glades who objected to having 60,000 acres of active farm land removed from production.

Instead, the bill relies primarily on state-owned land and allows the South Florida Water Management District to purchase more by buying or swapping with farmers for other parcels owned by the state.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said last week that while he thinks the changes made by Negron and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee were an improvement, he refrained from saying he would support the bill because it continues to open the door to allowing bonding for the purchase of additional land.

"We're not bonding," Corcoran said. "I didn't say we're going to go along with it. I said it's getting better and better."

The fishing captains said they weren't interested in how legislators work out their differences but want to see progress soon.

"We just need a solution," Andrews told reporters. "We don't care if they pay for it — if they bond it or pay cash or if they have a yard sale and sell stuff — whatever they need."

For decades, Florida Bay has endured repetitive algae blooms that have killed off sea grass and weakened the bay's biosphere, leaving giant swaths empty and barren that were once teeming with game fish. Meanwhile, while Florida Bay didn't have enough water, Lake Okeechobee had too much and polluted water discharged from the lake led to toxic algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

"We're just trying to prevent too little too late," Friedman said. "You can't go to Florida Bay and Islamorada, the sports fishing capital of the world, and not go fishing."

Joining the group was U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a freshman Republican from Hutchinson Island who said he is preparing legislation to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start the permitting process for a southern reservoir immediately, expediting what could be a four- or five-year bureaucratic delay. The proposal is similar to a provision in Negron's plan that would force the South Florida Water Management District to move the planning date from 2021 to no later than October 2018.

Mast said federal officials told him "if we owned land tomorrow, it would be 10 years before we got to a final project."

He acknowledged that Florida's Everglades Caucus, a bipartisan group of congressional members, is "absolutely unified in addressing this fight but is absolutely not unified in what the solutions are."

But he said that with construction technology improved, there should be no excuse for a prolonged delay in building a southern reservoir.

"We should be asking ourselves over and over again, why this is taking decades?" he said. He commended the grassroots advocacy of the fishing guides and told them "political pressure matters."

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at [email protected] or 850-222-3095. Follow @MaryEllenKlas

Comments
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Updated: 4 hours ago

10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

DALLAS — Yet again, the National Archives released a trove of records from the Kennedy assassination files on a Friday afternoon, another strange stream of loose ends, dead ends and tangents with little apparent connection to the assassination of the...
Updated: 5 hours ago
William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

Jose Vazquez, Democratic nominee in the Dec. 19 state House District 58 special election, doesn’t seem like a criminal. He’s 43, divorced with six children, and has worked as a security guard and in auto recycling. He was a high-level political field...
Published: 11/17/17
Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is displaying selective outrage over allegations of sexual harassment against prominent men in politics, as his own tortured past lingers over his response. Trump moved quickly Thursday to condemn accusations again...
Published: 11/17/17
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y. — Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t ...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation Thursday after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a broadcaster and model while traveling overseas in 2006.The allegations ag...
Published: 11/16/17
Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roy Moore won a reprieve in his struggle to survive as a U.S. Senate candidate Thursday when the Alabama Republican Party affirmed it would continue backing him despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers."Judge Moore ...
Published: 11/16/17