One recent example of the power of this industry was the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma. Sugar fields were flooded, and excess water needed to be removed from the fields. Producers of this crop back-drained the flood waters into Lake O with no regard to filtering or treating. It was simply pumped in there. There was no political outcry regarding this action.
Lake O levels were already high from summer rains and this additional input from the fields required that the dams release the lake’s flow into our rivers. Regarding our coast, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the release of 4,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Caloosahatchee River.
Estuaries are severely affected when that release is 2,800 cfs or more. Add on the nutrient and phosphate factor and nature is devastated.
Subsidies and embargoes help keep the competition down and the profits up for Big Sugar. Their political power has prevailed for decades and it appears that their longevity will remain a factor and a stumbling block for Everglades restoration. In addition, the price paid for sugar here in the U.S. is above the world average.
They’ve proven that they can reduce issues from a federal level down to the state where their battles are easily successful. Lobbyists for Big Sugar will continue the fight for their employers and, while everyone’s arguing, the destruction will continue.
I can sadly recall the picture of Iron Eyes Cody as he wept when his Wild West disappeared and litter dotted the landscape. My tears flow as this decades-old problem continues and our River of Grass remains in jeopardy. I pray that logic and reason quickly prevail rather than a system of legal battles that should not even be an issue.
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours, providing walking tours of the Big Cypress Bend area of the western Everglades. He is also a naturalist on board the dolphin survey boat, Dolphin Explorer. Bob loves his wife very much!