My family has owned a fish camp in the town of Suwannee at the mouth of the Suwannee River since 1971. I have personally witnessed the destruction of the oysters there over the last 40 years.
In the '70s they were plentiful, and during the winter months we would harvest bushels easily for our own consumption. The '80s brought in the commercial oystermen who were unregulated and overfished many of the bars, contributing to the decline. In the '90s we started having problems with pollution, closing many of the areas that historically held shellfish. In the 2000s we saw sea level rise and decreased freshwater flow, leading to saltwater intrusion.
According to Dr. Jennifer Seavey, who studies oysters from her office in Cedar Key, healthy populations rely on optimum temperatures and salinities. She has documented the destruction of Lone Cabbage Reef and the great Suwannee Reef. These, along with numerous smaller oyster bars, are really nothing but sandbars now.
The lack of freshwater flow in the river stems from overpumping the aquifer and decreasing flows from the numerous springs that feed the river. The Suwannee River Water Management District is still issuing consumptive use permits to agricultural projects, some of which are just a few miles from first-magnitude springs. Also, the Jacksonville area has begun to consume so much water that it is affecting spring flows in the northern area. PCS Phosphate is consuming huge amounts of water from the White Springs area.
It is justifiable for the state of Florida to point fingers at Alabama and Georgia for the demise of the oyster industry in Apalachicola due to lack of freshwater flow. Unfortunately, to see the cause for the demise of the Suwannee oysters, the state just has to look in the mirror.
K.C. Nayfield, Crystal River
Church plan for graves rejected | Aug. 14
Citizens taking action
The success of this neighborhood initiative will hopefully continue to fuel the groundswell of citizens' initiatives whose purpose is to maintain the character of their neighborhoods and prevent irresponsible development. Our ability to keep this new cemetery from being built in the middle of our established Carrollwood neighborhood was a huge victory for the "little people."
These citizen initiatives have been increasingly successful in the past year within both the county and city boundaries. Their success should give notice to developers that neighborhoods are no longer willing to just roll over and accept whatever they want to build.
In the county, there was the successful halt of yet another Walmart on North Dale Mabry that would have made three Walmarts within 10 miles of each other, increasing traffic on an already overcrowded road. The residents of New Suburb Beautiful were successful in presenting their opposition to the Tampa City Council for a proposed 212-apartment SoHo Flats complex, which would have only exacerbated congestion on South Howard Avenue.
I cannot fail to congratulate the Hillsborough County commissioners who were so impressive in the way they conducted the hearings, attentively listened to the presentations, processed the information, and rendered their opinions. I have always been proud to have them as my representatives, even when I have disagreed with their decisions.
While we all agree that growth and development is good for Tampa's economy, and none of us want to prevent that. What citizens are demanding is responsible growth.
Developers need to take into account the current surrounding area of a neighborhood when determining the suitability for a project and what impact the project will have on the quality of life for existing residents. This has been sorely lacking in the Tampa Bay area, where "connected" developers could just propose a project and get it built.
Diana Rao, Tampa
GOP seeks a focus | Aug. 11
In America's past — prior to Newt Gingrich — my sense is that our federal legislative representatives mostly had the nation's long-term interests at heart and voted accordingly.
Now that I'm 74, my sense is Republicans have totally lost sight of that vision and are interested only in their re-election plus the agenda of the moneybags that got them elected the first time.
They are mere puppets of Grover Norquist and Karl Rove, both of whom who need total repudiation.
Doug Hicks, Tampa
3 teens in bus beating face judge | Aug. 14
Probation isn't enough
Reading this article after having viewed the video of the beating, I was sickened to read that an incident of extreme bullying, not to mention the attempted crime of selling marijuana to a 13-year-old, could possibly be disposed of with "court-supervised probation."
That 13-year-old will suffer effects from that trauma long after any probation will be over. The perpetrators demonstrated they are beyond being altered by mere probation.
Margaret Pringle, Tarpon Springs
State allowed high rates | Aug. 9
Make their names known
The Legislature's decision to strip the insurance commissioner's authority to negotiate lower health insurance rates is stunning.
How could our elected officials vote to allow higher rates for their constituents? To prove President Barack Obama wrong at the expense of the people? Or are they all thinking only of their next election and the donations from the insurance companies?
I am a Republican, but I'm calling out every member of the Legislature who voted to hurt the middle class of Florida, who are struggling to make ends meet.
I would like to formally request that the Tampa Bay Times print the name of every legislator and how they voted on this crucial decision to make Floridians pay one cent more than they have to for health insurance.
The people have the right to know who is on their side and who is not.
Kevin Keogh, St. Petersburg
Egypt teetering on edge of the abyss Aug. 15, editorial
U.S. missteps in Egypt
You neglected to identify the root cause of the political leadership vacuum in Egypt that has resulted in civil chaos and mass killings. You imply that autocrat Hosni Mubarak was the bad guy, but was he as bad as Mohammed Morsi would be with his Muslim Brotherhood?
Our president and then-secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, grossly miscalculated the consequences of their actions when they worked to initiate the ouster of Mubarak.
You mention President Barack Obama's refusal to take any action to denounce the coup and also instruct him on what he needs to do. The damage has been done and is not reversible. You mention that Obama doesn't have the strongest voice in the crisis. In truth, he has no voice at all.
William Rohlfs, Largo
Where America stands
President Barack Obama says America won't "pick sides" in the violence in Egypt. This construction is unhelpful because a classic liberal — not to mention a conservative — should be able to discriminate among the biggest ideas behind the secularists versus Muslim Brotherhood "sides." Why does the president avoid making such elephant-in-the-room distinctions? Surely, key ideas separating the warring parties fall under Obama's preference for peace and democracy. Why not define and endorse those ideas and values, and condemn their intolerant opposites so Americans and Egyptians understand where we stand?
The eureka lesson on the Arab Spring is that the minimum consensus on social fundamentals necessary for robust democracy to function is simply not present in Egypt. There's no reasonable prospect that it will be any time soon.
The best our president can — and should — do is to contrast the Muslim Brotherhood's intolerant Islamist supremacy ideas with those of Egyptians who favor an "ultralight democracy" based on rule of man-made law, gender and human rights, tolerance of minorities and peaceful coexistence with "infidels."
An ultralight demo-Islamic accommodation may be a far cry from the low-information visions of Westerners, but Mideast peace, an end to the murder of Copts, and an open Suez Canal require clarity, not obfuscation, from putative statesmen.
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
Rubio fails leadership test | Aug. 15, editorial
Caving in to the fringe
I don't remember any senator with quite the precipitous fall as Florida's junior senator, Marco Rubio. He seemed well-intentioned with his involvement with the "Group of Eight" on crafting an immigration bill that could have positioned him as a true leader, bucking some of the far right-wing establishment.
But then he caved and now is working with that same group of firebrands that look to dismantle government rather than improve it, by threatening to shut the government down if he doesn't get his way. I expected this from Ted Cruz, but Rubio seemed to have the intellect not to stray down a road to nowhere just to please the fringe.
His recent poll numbers place him at the bottom of the pack he was leading not so long ago. I suspect he is suffering the same illness as failed presidential contender Mitt Romney: lack of a core.
George Chase, St. Pete Beach
Just say no | Aug. 15, letter
It's not confusing
I must disagree with the letter writer's opinion to "just say no" to the Lens ballot issue. I have read the referendum, and it is not that hard to understand. And in this case, it has been made obviously clear in several Times articles: No means yes to the Lens, leaving us stuck with a piece of art that does not serve our community or our tourists.
Corinne Broskette, St. Petersburg