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Judah talks water quality with local civic association

June 17, 2015
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah warned that if the state doesn't buy the U.S. Sugar land, it would not only be much more expensive to do so in the future, it would also mean water quality in Southwest Florida will continue to deteriorate as water from Lake Okeechobee will continue to flow east and west instead of south like it should.

Judah, speaking on behalf of the Florida Ocean Coalition, spoke recently at the monthly North Fort Myers Civic Association meeting at the rec center about water issues in the Caloosahatchee and how these problems can be solved.

Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River were not connected until the 1880s, when Hamilton Diston agreed to help improve commerce in the state by connected those waterways.

In the 1920s, the St. Lucie River was connected to Indian River Lagoon on the east coast, and following some hurricanes in that decade that cost many lives, the state built the Hoover Dike.

The consequence is that the Everglades is starving for water. Whenever the lake gets too high, the water is released down the two rivers as opposed to the south the way it used to.

Another consequence, Judah said, was the destruction of the estuary that occurred during the 2013 rainy season.

"The polluted water that came down from the lake changed the salt/fresh content and killed everything," Judah said.

Amendment 1 passed in November by a nearly 3 to 1 margin, and is expected to raise billions, Judah said.

Judah added on the state level, a game of deception has been played by the sugar industry and the legislature, with local representative Matt Caldwell being among them.

Judah said the best way to send water to the south would be to build a spillway in that direction to release excess runoff before or during a storm.

That's where the U.S Sugar land comes in. The state has the option to buy the 46,800 acres at a low cost before Oct. 12 or see the price of the land, as well as the amount of land they would have to buy, increase.

"If we can get that acreage, that would be the ideal solution to address the problems in the lake, treating it, and sending it to the Glades," Judah said.

The clean water is necessary, Judah said, for the tourist industry depends on it.

"We have a $70 billion tourist economy in Florida and $3 billion here in Lee County. It's predicated on clean water," Judah said. "The people had a right to support Amendment 1 for where the money needs to be spent, and the legislature needs to understand that."

In other business, the civic association also heard from Becky Sanders-Lucas of Habitat for Humanity, who discussed the goings-on with her organization and answered questions.

Also, Wendy Fahl, a 14-year resident, was named to one of the openings on the civic association board of directors, saying that her area of interest is code enforcement.

Fahl had to take interest in Christie Hager and John Mooney, who complained about the constant yard sales in their neighborhood off Orange Grove.

"Every weekend the traffic piles up. People are parking on the median," Hager said.

"It's a blight on our neighborhood with nice homes. People would have second thoughts moving here if they saw that," Mooney said.



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