By Capt. Karl R. Deigert, Florida Rights of Nature
The Army Corp of Engineers is accepting public input on a 10-year plan for water releases from Lake Okeechobee. Repeatedly, the Corps has told us that water quality is Florida’s responsibility. Its mission is to “move it,” clean or toxic.
Now the Corps has chosen a plan to manage the lake and the water flowing into it. It’s called “Plan CC.”
Corps officials continually speak about “balance” for stakeholders—the estuaries, residents, and farmers to the south of the lake. In fact, every Floridian is a stakeholder. Moving toxic water achieves zero balance for Floridians. So long as the discussion revolves around moving toxic waters instead of clean water, there is no plan but one: clean the waters.
Clean waters have been discussed for decades. With this comes talk of “shared adversity,” meaning who gets harmed, who doesn’t, and let’s share the toxic water equally. Fighting about who gets toxic waters is nonsensical instead of talking about sources of the pollution.
Old Everglades restoration projects have yet to be completed. Billions have been spent but the water still isn’t clean.
Now, Florida’s leading advocacy groups are being co-opted again to think their opinions on “Plan CC” will bring effective change. Change in moving toxic waters for 10 more years?
I’m a victim of shared adversity. Being a boat captain, I fulfilled a dream to own a Florida waterfront motel and give water tours in Matlacha. Today, Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve resembles chicken gravy more than water and is unsafe for residents. Some have been hospitalized due to hydrogen sulfide gases of rotting algae.
Justifying profit over potential harm was not an option for me. Clean waters bring businesses. Toxic waters bring economic collapse and an exodus.
Current legislators, not directly responsible for decades of degradation, must be held accountable. They fail to act because they operate within a framework of governance where every decision is based on regulatory agency rules created by Florida’s biggest polluters.
Corporations influence legislators to enact regulations allowing them to pollute with impunity. It is a failed system that must be changed.
Legislators must look to the sources of the pollution and the corporations to save our waters. The Corps’ newest plan is a perfect example of the failed system.
There is hope. Floridians can choose to take charge of the process. We stop waiting decades for failed decision-makers to act. We recapture our constitutional right to self-governance and create a new law. A law for legal, constitutionally framed rights to clean waters recognized as the highest level of protection achievable. A law that moves environmental enforcement into the hands of Florida’s residents and away from those beholden to corporate will.
The human right to clean water should be sacred. No longer can we work within the failed framework.
The Florida Rights of Nature Network champions the Florida State constitutional “Right to Clean Water Amendment” petition. Be the change. Visit FL5.org and make the preferred choice. Choose clean waters over toxic waters. Print, sign, share, and mail in your petition today.
Capt. Karl R. Deigert is the Southeast Director of Florida Rights of Nature. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.