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Confused legislators?

By Staff | Dec 16, 2015

To the editor:

Mayor Ruane, in his guest commentary, [Island Reporter, Dec. 2, 2015] opened by discussing the importance of clean water to the tourist industry.

Doesn’t Sanibel already have more tourists and traffic than our infrastructure and ecosystem can handle? Isn’t clean water and a healthy ecosystem good in itself?

He with other local mayors and Lee County officials joined forces to communicate with the legislators because the politicians in Tallahassee were “confused” by advice from different factions on the West Coast of Florida.

This communication consisted of 29 pages, much of it in fine print on solutions for the storage and treatment of water in the Caloosahatchee watershed.

There are good ideas in the report, but most is political gobbledygook such as ‘cost effective’, ‘stakeholders’ and long meaningless sentences written in the passive tense.

Mayor Ruane’s main strategy rests on the C-43 reservoir that is supposed to augment dry season water flows to help balance salinity.

At a recent meeting of the Sanibel League of Women Voters, Ray Judah said the C-43 project is a concrete structure to hold water, not a treatment facility.

Unlike a restored wetland with natural vegetation C-43 will not reduce the huge load of agricultural nutrients or be a wildlife habitat. It will not have any recreational value but will be a stagnant breeding ground for blue-green algae.

Furthermore, big agriculture, not the river will get the water, if needed during dry spells. The C-43 project is another example of how the politicians force citizens, rather than the polluters to pay for water clean-up.

Big agriculture, especially the sugar industry and the developers, have made fortunes as a result of damming, channeling and polluting our common waters.

Shouldn’t these interests pay for cleaning up their own mess? The politicians love grand public works, especially concrete, because contractors contribute to political campaigns.

Mayor Ruane asked for sound scientific solutions. He should listen to John Cassani who has a master’s degree in aquatic biology and is the chairman of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council.

Mr. Cassani has said the existing plans don’t address the root causes of our water problems. The state EPA standards are lax; agricultural interests resist regulation of fertilizers and pesticides.

Mr. Cassani pointed out that the phosphorus content in Lake Okeechobee is supposed to be no more than 100 metric tons a year.

Actual levels are four times this supposed limit.

Let us go back to Mr. Ruane’s “confused legislators.”

These are the same politicians who refused to spend Amendment one money for land acquisition; they are the same legislators who would stop local government from deciding on oil drilling and the same legislators on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee who passed a pro-fracking bill, that would keep secret the use of toxic chemicals used for drilling.

Those legislators are not “confused” but are beholden to big agriculture, the oil industry and the developers who grease their palms with campaign money.

This money, like the $750,000, spent by big sugar to defeat Mr. Judah in the Lee County Commissioners election is a prime example of how special interests undermine democracy.

If Mr. Ruane and his political cronies are interested in better water quality, he should lead a boycott of big sugar.

John Raffensperger

Sanibel