Lee County not backing petition for Lake O discharges
The concern for clean water in Southwest Florida continues to become more prevalent in the lives of its residents.
Cape Coral resident Trisha Botty never expected the clean water crisis in Southwest Florida to become her fight.
“We want to get people to come out and enjoy spending time with us in Southwest Florida, and I worry about that,” Botty said.
Botty supports mayors in Lee County, who plan to take the South Florida Water Management District to court.
She also asked Lee County commissioners to join the petition to push for more Lake Okeechobee discharges in the dry season to potentially cut down on the future algae blooms, but the commission decided to go a different route.
“We want to cut the lawyers out of it,” District 4 Commissioner Brian Hamman said. “We want to cut the judge out of it. We want to talk face-to-face with the water management district about the actual operation of the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule.
Instead, commissioners will send the SFWMD a letter asking for a work session to solve this issue with all parties involved, a decision not likely to be taken lightly by some.
Executive Director Daniel Andrews of Captains For Clean Water, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for the elimination of harmful, large-scale Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Estuaries, is not satisfied with the actions by the local commissioners.
“We need real action, and we were really counting on our county commission to do that, and they didn’t.” Andrews said.
However, Hamman is confident in the direction the commissioner’s actions lie regarding future meetings with SFWMD.
“Now, we have a clear path for the county commission to work collaboratively with the water management district,” Hamman said.
Chairman and District 2 Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass was the only one to vote against the letter.
“Every year I have sent letters to the water management to ask them to increase flows,” Pendergrass said. “They ignore us. We need to send a clear message that we stand with the cities for clean water.”
Botty hopes for unity and teamwork from the commissioners and community members, hoping for immediate results.
“We need a community to come together that isn’t going to be like this and pointing fingers,” Botty said.