Practically since Florida was settled, people have tried to manipulate the way Lake Okeechobee and its estuaries function – artificial flood control, drainage, levies and canals have been constructed around the lake to make the land surrounding it more useful, and to the south, much of the land – which used to be a direct source of fresh, clean water to the Everglades, which flowed from small tributaries that drained away from the lake – was converted to agricultural use. At one point, there was even an attempt to drain the Everglades and turn it into rich, fertile muck farming land. With agriculture comes agricultural byproducts – chemical runoff, toxic discharges and fertilizers that cause massive algae blooms and poison the water that makes its way south. The University of Florida's Water Institute just released a study recommending that the state accelerate its plans to restore vital watersheds around the lake to protect the Everglades from the poison flowing directly into it.
And the state Legislature now has a chance to buy a big chunk of land from U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, but – shocker – it's not jumping at it. According to the News Service of Florida, legislators are reluctant to buy the land which they have the option to purchase until it expires in October. Then, the land just goes back to being agricultural land owned by the Fanjuls, U.S. Sugar and other interests, and the dumping, algae blooms, nitrates and whatever else Big Sugar pours into the lake and its estuaries keeps coming.
Why is the Legislature dragging its feet on this?