[USA] As part of U.S. Sugar’s continuing efforts to set the record straight and share facts with the public and the media, we recently met with Pensacola News Journal editorial cartoonist Andy Marlette and editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara. We provided state water quality and engineering data and pointed out flaws in the science behind Senate Bill 10:
• It ignores the system’s inability to send water south to the Everglades during wet periods.
• Only a relatively small volume of water could be stored in a reservoir south of the lake compared with the hundreds of billions of gallons discharged to the coastal estuaries.
• A reservoir deals with water quantity, not water quality — therefore, a small reservoir on sugarcane/vegetable land south of Lake Okeechobee would do nothing to prevent algae blooms in the coastal estuaries.
Despite these discussions and that the state agency in charge of water management in South Florida has well documented these facts, Marlette continued his misleading drawings. His latest cartoon depicts a false link among blue green algae, Florida’s sugarcane farming community and the commissioner of agriculture. There is simply no scientific evidence to support a link between sugarcane farmers and toxic algae in the St. Lucie Estuary. According to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) report we provided Marlette, “Local Basin Runoff accounted for about 79 percent of flow and 87 percent of the phosphorus load to the estuary.” That means that all but 21 percent of the water and 13 percent of the nutrients (which feed algae blooms) come directly from the communities where the algae blooms occurred last summer and not from Lake Okeechobee. These statistics are also included in the 2015 University of Florida Water Institute report that was commissioned by the Florida Legislature. And 95 percent of the water and nutrients in the lake come from the north, not the south where sugarcane farms are located.
Algae blooms have also occurred in the St. Lucie Estuary in years when there were no discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Whether it’s South Florida or North Florida, our state’s warm, wet climate provides ideal conditions for the summertime growth of algae. As the state and federal governments work on increasing water storage around the lake to reduce fresh water discharges, local communities must do more to reduce nutrient loads from local basins and septic tanks to help reduce toxic algae blooms.
What’s most disappointing about this misinformation campaign is that it detracts from the facts and from making progress. Sugarcane farmers are not the cause of the algae blooms. Our water does not flow into Lake Okeechobee, and the water that does leave our farms flowing south to the Everglades is cleaner by far than what is required of us.
Our farms are among the most productive in America, producing sugarcane, sweet corn, citrus and other fresh vegetables, providing good American jobs for our communities. Senate Bill 10 would take 60,000 to 153,000 acres of valuable farmland away from producing food, yet do little to fix Lake O/estuary discharge problems. When it’s wet, the Everglades cannot take more water — there is no “Send it south.” When it’s dry, a reservoir would only waste scarce water resources. Then, lake water can be sent directly to the Everglades. Scientific data shows that a 60,000 acre reservoir south of the lake would have done little to reduce coastal discharges in extremely wet 2013 and 2016.
U.S. Sugar and Florida Sugarcane Farmers proudly support all science-based efforts to stop the discharges. We do not support wasting tax dollars to buy land for projects that will not work.
Sanchez is the senior director for corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. She resides in Belle Glade, Fla.
View original article at: U.S. sugar: Marlette cartoons false about sugar, algae facts