Like a cheap magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida gave a press conference holding a bottle of green water while standing on steps of the Capitol. “If they don’t buy the U.S. Sugar land then the people downstream from Lake Okeechobee can expect to continue to get this type of green, slimy, toxic algae water dumped on them on a continuous basis.” He stated while waving the bottle, ostensibly filled with water from the St. Lucie River.
Nobody knows if the water in that bottle was toxic, had algae in it, or most importantly, if it was even from the St. Lucie River. It just makes for great theatrics, right? Lots of gasps from the audience, but at the end it still remains a theatrical trick. In fact, the Martin County Health Department would later tell folks that there was blue-green algae found in multiple parts of Martin County in places that had NO connection to Lake Okeechobee. But waving the bottle of water was never about fact, or even reality, it’s a trick that the well-heeled environmentalist supporters of the Everglades land purchase are attempting to pull on taxpayers and the Florida Legislature by using an emotional response to get to the outcome they want.
It’s much easier for the Audubon Society Florida and other environmental groups supporting the Everglades land grab to use misdirection and trickery rather than face the uncomfortable facts that the current Everglades restoration and protection efforts are already working, producing water that already substantially cleaner than what both Federal and State Regulations mandate.
Even more disconcerting is the veiled threat that Draper implied when speaking to the press saying “I have no doubt that the people who are living downstream from this polluted discharge of water are heavily motivated to go to the courts and say use the Amendment 1 dollars to buy the U.S. Sugar lands.” Goodness! How in the world could Draper be so confident in the response of the people living downstream? Is it possible that Eric Draper and his colleagues would be financially backing such an action, once again using the Florida courts to circumvent the State Legislature and by extension, the voters that they represent?
In fact the Florida Supreme Court has already ruled the Legislature has the authority to decide how Amendment 1 monies are to be spent. Look carefully at the actual text of Amendment 1. You won’t find the US Sugar land (with it’s hidden $2 billion price tag to use it as a reservoir) mentioned anyplace.
Draper also rolled out another familiar line of smoke and mirrors saying “The U.S. Sugar land is necessary to stop this from happening. The U.S. Sugar land gives us the opportunity to treat the water and send it south …” Really? So far there have been no definitive or practical plans on how this land could be used for water treatment or water movement. Let’s look at that again: NO PLANS. There is also no scientific evidence that the land, if purchased, would even help clean up the Everglades. Let’s have a second look at that too: NO PROOF.
In fact, the land south of Lake Okeechobee is too small to have much of an impact at all. It’s about millions of acre/feet of water theoretically being fed or stored on a small piece of land, holding about 100,000 acre feet of water- a comparative drop in the bucket. At a cost of as much as $2.7 billion. Too little land for too much money. Florida needs to complete the Caloosahatchee Reservoir and Indian River Lagoon projects to capture, store and clean those discharges, and buying the US Sugar land will only serve to divert money from finishing the vital projects.
Florida residents and legislature need to take a close look at the illusions and misdirections being flourished upon them by special interest groups pushing for this land grab. While it might be entertaining, don’t believe it for one second. Oh, also, on your way out of the political theater make sure to look for the false bottom in the hat, the mirror in the box, and definitely check to make sure you still have your wallet. The land that was $500 million is closer to $700 million, and there are at least $2 billion in engineering costs even to use the land for a small reservoir. It’s simple cost/benefit analysis. The state already owns land that will hold and clean more water for the Everglades and the Estuaries!
It should probably also be noted that according to a few Tallahassee staffers passing by a short while later, the bottles containing the “dirty water” and used on the steps were all poured into the Tallahassee sewage system rather than being transported back to the Audubon HQ. Someone should probably call the EPA…