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Clean water, dirty wetlands

By Staff | Oct 20, 2020

To the editor:

Although Southwest Florida has managed to escape the worst of our recent water woes thus far in 2020, there is not a local resident who cannot forget the past few years when a combination of red tide and blue-green algae wrecked havoc on our beaches and estuaries. Indeed, the formation of “Captains for Clean Water” was a direct result of this toxic disaster that has plagued our near shore waters over the past decade.

While we fight this battle downstream, it’s important to understand that it can only be stopped by making sure the upstream waters are protected from pollution in the first place. That’s not what is happening under the current administration currently occupying the headwaters of our nation.

Just this April, the day before Earth Day, the EPA finalized what is commonly referred to as the “Dirty Water Rule.” The new rule overturns the “Clean Water Rule” which helped define what are called WOTUS, or Waters of the United States. With the pandemic raging and few citizens paying attention, this repeal of the 2015 regulations means that many wetlands, ephemeral streams or seasonal bodies of water are now exempt from the clean water act. In Florida, where countless bodies of water disappear during the dry season, this ruling is especially troublesome.

The EPA is being sued by such diverse organizations as the Izaak Walton League, Cattahoochee Riverkeepers and Sierra Club over the new rule change, but it is unlikely that much will change for the moment. If the current administration gets re-elected, it is highly probable they will win their case in the conservative Supreme Court and all of our efforts to keep the waters of Southwest Florida pollution free will be for nothing.

While big polluters such as the carbon industry, developers and agricultural industry applaud the new ruling, the rest of us will pay the price downstream. If you stand for clean water, then vote for it. If you want more red tide, blue-green algae and worse, vote red. If you want blue water again, vote blue. It’s that simple.

Charles Sobczak