Concerned citizens fight for rights of Caloosahatchee River

The Caloosahatchee River is essential to Southwest Florida, helping bring water across our area. A group wants to give the water body rights, so it can be better defended and protected.

A group of concerned citizens want the Caloosahatchee gets rights approved for it, allowing people to file lawsuits on behalf of the river and against those who harm it.

“I want all their money, and I want it back in to our waterways,” said Sherry Straub, who has fought for the rights of other major water bodies in the country. “And I want them to clean this up because that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to do that.”

Straub along with other concerned citizens were able to fight for the rights of Lake Erie and win. She said it’s time to hold companies responsible for polluting our precious waters and be a voice for them.

“I can remember being a kid, going fishing with my grandparents and leaving there in the evening,” Straub said. “And the river would be aglow.”

Straub has lived the devastating impacts to the water in places she has called home.

“This is my backyard, and I want my backyard back,” Straub said.

Earlier this year in Toledo, Ohio, voters approved an amendment that says people living in the city have the right to protect Lake Erie. This allows concerned people to file lawsuits on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted.

Straub and others are working to do the same for the Caloosahatchee in our backyards.

“We attend the meetings; we make emails; we telephone these people and these representatives,” said Karl Deigert, who owns a local boat business. “And we try to persuade them to do what we think is right. This forces them to do what’s right.”

Deigert said his boat tour and hotel business took a huge hit last summer that was plagued with red tide and blue-green algae.

“That makes it hard to pay the bills,” Deigert said. “Going forward, the sustainability depends on clean water.”

It took three years for amendments to pass for the rights of Lake Erie. Here in Southwest Florida, if the issue is unable to be brought directly to county or city officials for approval, concerned citizens plan to petition tens of thousands of signatures to get it on the ballot for a vote. The right of our major water source is something people like Straub are ready to fight for.

“Speak for the water because the water doesn’t have a voice,” Straub said.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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