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Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee

Beak Boater

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Wow just wow!! Unbealivable the sugar company does not donate the land to make canals. I guess it goes to show they couldn’t care any less about the environment. 

 It’s hard to believe in this day and age that  any government would knowingly kill the environment. 

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I am not in that area but have somewhat followed this. I do not totally blame RS and from this article it should have been fixed a long time ago. I tend to place more blame on people in the legislature that never did anything in all these years, plus the big sugar lobby is behind this as well.



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  Agreed, this issue has been going on for a longtime and should have been rectified back in the day. It's all about the dollar and the demand. Maybe when Cuba becomes a free market we can start importing sugar from them at half the price and reduce the demand here?  It's a messy subject but the voices are getting louder to get it corrected

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Our beloved Dept of the Interior & Army Corps of Engineers never had any forward thinking when they designed this masterpiece of a mess. Remember, the genius leaders of those organizations also tried to dry out the Everglades so none of us should be shocked about how this is turning out.

Big sugar & other large landholders of sensitive wetlands in key areas don't have to sell their land so the state simply doesn't have the land (or the resources) needed to clean up the lake water before it is discharged. Usage of fertilizers, leaking septic tanks, storm runoff and other personal & industrial pollution greatly exacerbates the issue at hand so us humans aren't helping the situation at all. Unfortunately it will only get worse as more people move to FL.

There is no clear solution at this point. :( 

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There are so many “half-truths” and misconceptions from #Bullsugar. They went from a grass roots clean water origination, to almost a political propaganda machine. I believe if anyone wants to get involved, Captains for Clean Water is doing a good, fair job.


History as I see it:

Per this video, they are claiming “ranchers and farmers”, north of the lake, are an issue. Really? Most of the ranchers lost every inch of pasture that even touches the river, in the 90’s. That’s right, all the way to the high watermark on the oaks. Some even lost their entire ranch. The Lanier family, Lunas, Clements, Ming’s, etc. lost thousands of acers it the Kissimmee deal. These ranches were just North of FL 98 and west of Micco Bluff Road. I’m quite sure there are more but these few are the ones I know about. If you run the river, hunting or fishing, you will see where the restoration project is.

In that same area, back in the late 80’s, the State of Florida went after the dairies that use to dot the landscape of the prairie. The state mandated that each dairy hold all their own waste. Yep, septic fields for cow poo. There is multiple acre sized septic systems at the cost of millions of dollars to the dairy farmers. Some large dairies could afford to do it, while most changed to beef, or just sold out. Now, a cowboy is just a grass farmer; farmers are frugal individuals. Does anyone believe that they are spending that much money on that much tonnage of fertilizer for their pasture grass? Nowhere near what is used further up the basin and chain of lakes. Ever seen a blade of brown grass at Disney?  The biggest load of phosphorus getting into the lake is coming from further north, Orlando. We don’t hear anyone talking too much about that….

EAA: There has to be a better plan than “Its Big Sugar’s Fault”. I believe they are a little dirty but nowhere near the big offender. Yes, they need to give up enough land to build the canals, to let the water flow south but it also needs to be controlled. It’s pretty arrogant to just say “screw them” “take it all” and make it a flood plain. People live there, work there and have for generations. I’m sure if people were coming after your livelihood and home, you would be ready to fight also. The area South of Clewiston is dotted with containment areas and STA’s. The farmers in the EAA do pump water to them and have been working with SFWMD and FWC on the levels and also public access. Now they need to add more canals to get it south.

You can see the road project on Tamiami Trail (US41) going on now. Great idea and an engineering feat within itself. The only issue I see is the next fight for getting water under that bridge will be with the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes. These guys are a sovereign nation and you all know they don’t like being told what to do. This battle will be harder than fighting the Fanjuls.

No clear plan, no clear solution. It *** but it's not just one thing causing this. It's all of us that live in South Florida also; it's too crowded and over developed. One thing I think about all the time is that it took a long time to screw it up, it will take a long time to fix. Hope to see it in my lifetime.

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It is truly a sad situation we are experiencing here in south Florida. I live on Fort Myers Beach and what we've witnessed these last few weeks will turn your stomach. Dead marine life for miles. Over 400 sea turtles, numerous manatees and dolphins, an over 20 foot whale shark, dead fish by the hundreds of tons washed up on shore, and killed by red tide. I've seen countless numbers of snook, trout, flounder, tarpon, goliath  grouper, along with many other species of marine life piled up on the beaches. Just one example of the environmental destruction being levied upon the people of Florida is outlined in the City of Sanibel's Report #11 which states that as of 8/8 2018 clean up crews have collected and removed 535,000 pounds (267 tons) of dead fish off their beaches. This does NOT include what is being found on the Bay side of the Island or in their canals, not to mention what is happening along the additional hundreds of miles of Florida coastline, canals, and estuaries. This is without question being exasperated by the Lake O discharges. 

I agree that there is not just one cause to this problem but I will say the solution DOES start with our residents DEMANDING more from our politicians. We elect these people to protect us and carry out our wishes. Yet it seems that once they are elected they forget why they were elected and put into office. Instead of working for us, the people of Florida, they begin their journey down the slippery slope of being bought by the special interest groups. I have a few suggestions that may help us get to the results we are now demanding. First I would end ALL subsidies to the sugar industry immediately. Why do we continue to prop up an industry that contributes in destroying our Nations health, effecting both humans with obesity and related diseases, and the environment? If you eliminated these subsidies it would be a win-win for this Country. The result would be a drop in health related costs to Americans and a much cleaner environment. The artificially inflated price of sugar helps to keep the land value in the EAA higher than they should be. If these subsidies were eliminated I believe the value of the land would fall and the owners of Big Sugar would be more receptive to a land buyout. Remember this was previously agreed to and should have been done years ago, but OUR politicians thought otherwise when they had the opportunity to do it. The people of Florida voted to tax themselves for land conservation. They wanted the State to purchase this land and begin the long process of restoring the natural sheet flow of water into the Everglades and yet again OUR politicians decided they had better ideas what to do with the money. OUR MONEY! 

Have the EPA mandate that Big Sugar is not allowed to back pump contaminated water into Lake O for the purpose of artificially maintaining specific water levels in the EAA in order for them to grow their sugar cane. The State and Federal Government must demand that Big Sugar build at THEIR cost, and on THEIR land, the reservoirs needed to contain THEIR toxic water.  Require that all water released from the EAA must meet certain environmental cleanliness guidelines before they are allowed to let it flow south where it is needed.

Build huge flow ways from Lake O through the land owned by Big Sugar into State/Federal owned lands. Construct massive filtering areas where eventually cleansed water can flow into the Everglades, again where it's needed most. Doing this would help to create many good paying construction jobs and also help to boost the local economies in the area. Talk about shovel ready projects that would put people to work with good jobs, this is one example for sure.  

Next, I ask for someone to develop a list of any politician who has accepted money from the Big Sugar lobbyists. I would ask that this list be published in EVERY local paper and every media outlet available to let the voters of Florida know who really has their best interests at heart and not just their own. This cause crosses all party lines. No one should hesitate to vote out ANY politician who has accepted one dime of Big Sugar money, no matter which party they are affiliated with. The time to change Florida's future is now and it starts with us, the voters of Florida. 

fish measuring photo 8.8.18.jpg

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I find it disingenuous to totally blame agriculture for this problem, big sugar or not. Millions of people wanted their slice of Florida paradise and they got it!

Ag has been in Florida for over 100 years, and a lot bigger than it is today. Where were these algae problems back in the 1940's,50's thru the 70's??

Everyone is demanding that something be done, okay,,,,,,What??? Remove thedyke from the lake? aint going to happen. Bulldoze down all those tracts of houses, golf courses and shopping centers? Good luck with that.

Look at yourselves. Unnatural lawns, sea walls, septic tanks in low lying areas, parking lots and the heavy use of fertilizers, insecticides etc. 

And I'm not so sure that Red Tide is directly related to the algae bloom?? Maybe it's coincidental? Or a perfect storm? 

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The lake is part of the problem for sure, but just a part.  When I graduated from High School in 1977 there were a little under 7 million people in this state. Close to 22 million now plus the visitors.

The problem is population density. The sub divisions with near zero lot lines. The high-rises to cram thousands of folks onto to a couple acres of dirt. The manipulation of the natural water flow on every square foot of dirt to accommodate more development. I often wonder about the thousands of acres of cow pastures around me that use to have standing water in them for months while it either evaporated or soaked and filtered into the aquifer over time.

You can bet your behind none of those homes being built in these pastures are going to have standing water in their yards.  :( That water is ditched and drained and ends up in our estuaries and coastal waters at all ends of this state.


Fish Hawk Ranch
Lakewood Ranch
Starkey Ranch
Mitchell Ranch
Boot Ranch
The Ranches of what the heck ever. All have thousands of homes and miles of asphalt and concrete.
All paved over and ditched and drained.

Really not hard to figure out the outcome when the pastures and cows are replaced by concrete and asphalt. WERE DOOMED!

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On 8/18/2018 at 1:37 PM, beachbuggy said:

I agree that there is not just one cause to this problem but I will say the solution DOES start with our residents DEMANDING more from our politicians.

The reality is that all of the above caused the perfect storm, and now the result is revealing itself.  It will take some intelligent ideas, hard choices, a lot of funding, and constant political pressure by citizens with an activist mentality - to begin to reverse the damage that has been done to Florida's delicate ecosystem.  It will be a long process, but it can be done.  I may have a difference of opinion on many things politically, compared to my friends and family in California, but I have to say... the Californian approach to the restoration and protection of the environment is exactly what is needed in Florida.  I lived in California, near the Bay Area, in the 60s and early 70s before we moved to Florida.  Back then, the polution from the population explosion was spinning out of control.  A haze of brown smog covered the skyline, and clear blue sky was rarely seen.  The rivers that flowed to San Francisco Bay were polluted from paper mills, chemical plants, agricultural runoff, and urban sprawl.  Fast forward to today and you'll find that much of California's ecosystem and natural beauty have been restored.  The air is cleaner, the water is cleaner, and tourism is thriving.  The people of California demanded changes and never waivered from their constant political pressure to clean up the state's environmental problems.  Florida can do the same thing.  Bad decisions were made in the interest of flood control, economic development, and population growth.  Asking people to give up their property or livelihood now, is not an option.  The Army Corps made changes to the flow of water that "paved the way" for the population growth and pressure on the ecosystem.  Somewhere out there is an expert who can figure out a way to treat the runoff and divert the cleaner water on a more natural course, that will filter through land rather than flash flooding into Florida's rivers, lakes and bays in massive quantities.  It will require an enormous effort at a high cost, but it will pay off in the long run if it's done right.

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This is NOT the place to indict those responsible by act or omission.

This IS the place to:

1. Promote membership and participation in action groups that can bring about change.  CCA Is looking out for you, the fishermen !!  Join The Cause !!! 

2. Recommend actions members can take to effect change e.g.  Send EMails to your elected officials.  Demand restorative actions to reverse this. Demand research funding for the cause..

This is a horrible situation.. Blaming wealthy corporations out loud may make you feel better, but it solves nothing.  There must be research to identify the sources, the aggravating factors, and things we can do to improve/prevent and restore.  I'm not going to slash and burn the emotional outbursts above, but please !!  Let's all push in the same direction.  We are all a part of this problem, and the sooner we get on with a fix, the better.  This massive fish and marine life kill must be the starting point for the action by every boat owner and stakeholder on both coasts !


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I agree. Everyone should be hitting all the politicians and clean water groups; just be careful who you send money to or align with. BullSugar to me is all propaganda. I guess every crisis needs a villain and the farmers are theirs.


Take a long look at our state, not just below the lake. Not just from Ft. Myers South and St. Lucie South. The entire state! Tampa Bay has their issues, The Banana River, The Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon, St Johns River, Etc. Sugar, vegetable farms, dairies and beef ranches are not the culprit up there either, WE ARE. Yep, I’m guilty as much as everyone else (if not more); I make my living in construction. We are over developed.

I believe the subsidies, for farmers, are and have been part of American Economics for as long as I can remember. There is no way to stop it like flicking a switch. The government has played this game with our farmers, so long that it is woven in to the fabric of our economic system. I can’t figure out the why or where’s but it’s there and not only for sugar. Also, agriculture is part of our national security. Think about that for a minute. Steaks at Publix from China?!?  

The EAA is a lot more than sugar. Farmers are smart, if they can’t make money on sugar, they’ll make it on rice, corn, sod, tomatoes, peppers, beans, beef or citrus. It’s already there, just take a look. Get off the computer and take a ride. Run along one of those rough county roads and you’ll see. Head around the lake and into Devils Garden. Thomas Farms (all vegetables), Alico (beef/citrus), Garcia (vegetables), Mc Daniels (beef), Seminole Tribe (beef and casinos), etc. Wiping out the EAA is not going to happen but it should change, and it must change, there just needs to be a plan.

Force the politicians to purchase the land and in turn, force the farmers to sell. Work with US Sugar, Okeelanta, King Ranch, Sugar Cane Growers Co-Op, USACE, SFWMD, etc. to get the right parcels purchased, canals designed and dug, to get the water flowing south. Use and expand on the STA’s already in place. Do something with the old Talisman and Griffin Tracks. These huge pieces of land are just south of Okeelanta and North of the Broward line. I was by there a while ago and it was nothing but bullrush. No levees no nothing.

There will never be a sheet flow like some people want, but those are the same folks that don’t understand the hydraulics of what we have now. If we did have a sheet flow like some folks want, they would be sitting on their roof tops, after a tropical storm. Control is a must.     

Now is the time for our government to get the water South and stop what is coming down from the North. After the EAA, they need to start working on getting the water thru Broward and Miami Dade. Get a plan in place to start working with the Indians, that own a lot of that land. This will be the next big deal (or problem). The Kissimmee is being “redone” now, so what about the runoff from Orange and Osceola counties? Everyone wants to take on the farmers but nobody is talking about the “other” villain up at the North end of the Kissimmee Basin….  

There are some pretty smart people (on all sides) working on this but it took decades to screw it up, it will take decades to fix it…           

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The same is happening up here in the panhandle especially St. Andrews bay and we have very little agriculture except for miles of pine forest.

North Bay and West bay are being highly impacted by runoff from developments on Panama City beach. Grand Lagoon has turned into a cess pool on some days. 

Many miles of once thick grass flats with turtle grass are gone or endangered and a slime of some sort is covering a lot of the grass chocking it out.

Not to mention the diversion of freshwater for the growing population and tourist.

 As the old saying goes,,, 20 pounds of manure in a 10 pound bag makes a mess!


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