3:02 AM, May 14, 2015
“Which side are you on, boys?”
“Which side are you on?”
That’s an old coal miners’ song from Kentucky.
We need to ask the Economic Council of Martin County whose side it is on.
One thing we agree on in Martin County is saving our river.
The Economic Council has been sending out emails asking people to sign a petition to save the river. That carefully worded petition endorses the position of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature and the South Florida Water Management District to “stay the course” and finish existing projects.
That message tells the Legislature:
Don’t buy land. Spend land-acquisition revenues on construction projects and agency budgets.
Don’t exercise the state’s option to buy U.S. Sugar’s land south of Lake Okeechobee. Don’t send the water south.
It would be easy to excuse the council’s position based on a lack of understanding about the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
But ever since their first emails went out, folks have been explaining to the Economic Council leadership that:
The state’s Restoration Strategies plan won’t help the river. That plan involves spending $800 million to clean runoff from sugar fields. Restoration Strategies is part of a court-ordered settlement. It is not part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
Completion of the C-44 reservoir will not save the river. It is mostly a storage reservoir to meet agricultural water needs.
Storage south of Lake Okeechobee is not a new and “complicated” idea. It has been part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan since 2000. It can’t happen if we don’t own land. The land the state does own is being used to clean sugar runoff. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t buy land for everglades restoration. That’s a state responsibility.
The only way to save Everglades National Park, the coastal estuaries and Miami’s water supply is to send massive amounts of water south where it used to flow. For that, you need land.
We have a plan: Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. We have a contract: the U.S. Sugar land option. We have the money from Amendment 1 for conservation purchases.
The option runs out in October.
The recent op-ed by the Economic Council’s chief executive, Charles Gerardi, attempts to clarify the group’s position. It is not against buying the land. It just doesn’t think we should.
The problem isn’t that council members disagree with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the University of Florida study and the 215 scientists who have petitioned the South Florida Water Management District and the thousands of Martin County residents who have been fighting for the River since the summer of 2013.
The problem is they are telling folks that signing their petition will ensure that our children and grandchildren will enjoy healthy waters.
It’s disgraceful that they would try to get people who love our river to sign a petition that kills hope for the one workable solution, under the guise of being river heroes.
I can’t believe that the majority of the council’s members are not uncomfortable and embarrassed with the email campaign and guest column.
Ask your friends who are on the Economic Council:
Is this what you want Martin County’s business community to be known for?
Which side are you on?
Maggy Hurchalla is a former Martin County commissioner and resident of Rocky Point.