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Lake O releases confronted before

By Staff | Aug 22, 2013

Dear Editor,

As the Sanibel City Council discusses what to do about the releases from Lake O that threaten the environment, tourism, and economy of Sanibel and other communities along the Gulf, the Councillors may wish to recall what Sanibel’s late Mayor Carla Brooks Johnston did when confronted with the same problem.

Carla took immediate action. Among other things, she organized the mayors of other affected communities into a delegation to inform and convince key state officials of the need to remedy the situation. She went to Washington, D.C., to the Army Corps of Engineers leaders who oversaw Lake O and to the offices of our congressional delegation to advise and convince them of the need to abate the releases.

She even visited the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, where the U.S. Ambassador, a Floridian, was a friend of then-President Bush. She arranged a meeting with the head of the Army engineers at Lake O., who she found unsympathetic to our plight, but she subsequently established excellent rapport with that officer’s successor, who she convinced there was a need for release abatement.

Bringing all the pieces together, she succeeded in getting the release numbers lowered sufficiently to protect our area.

She was opposed and attacked by the corporate interests that benefited from sending the overflow into our estuaries through the Caloosahatchee rather than, as more logically and efficiently, to the south. But the needs of Sanibel’s residents and businesses were her priorities.

The story of Lake O and Sanibel was to be the fifth section of her final book “Change Makers,” but she died before that part was completed.

Sadly, Carla Johnston is not here to help us again, but we can benefit from two of her main commitments – and political slogans: “Keep Sanibel Sanibel” and “Let’s Get It Done!”

Robert Hilliard