by Gary Cooper
The series of public meetings about Lake Okeechobee water levels and related issues continues this week in South Florida, hosted by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to last-minute media announcements this morning, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL 18th District), is expected to attend the first of two public meetings today at 1:00 p.m. at Indian River State College in Stuart, Florida.
Congressman Mast has increasingly become a target of criticism by South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) board members recently forced to resign at his urging, and other community leaders around South Florida, who say his politically motivated comments cloud the truth from public view and stir uninformed residents into unnecessary frenzy.
At last week’s SFWMD governing board meeting, there were not enough members left to have a quorum. Most had already resigned at the urgency of Governor DeSantis, who plans to appoint an entirely new board. But, the frustrations of those board members who attended boiled over in their parting comments, excerpts of which are shared below.
Also included below is a flashback from a local community leader from Belle Glade, Rev. Robert Rease who spoke with us at a meeting of the Water Resources Analysis Coalition (WRAC) at SFWMD headquarters during the heat of election season last fall. His comments on this issue still have great relevance to this discussion.
Below are excerpts of strong words from SFWMD former governing board member Brandon Tucker last week, blasting any proposal by Congressman Brian Mast to lower Lake Okeechobee levels to 10.5 feet, as “asinine.” Tucker insists Mast has no background or qualification to question good science derived from years and millions of dollars of studies, pointing out that Mast is a fairly new resident to Florida and to the region he represents in Congress:
Furthermore, Tucker strongly urges, “The lies about Lake Okeechobee must stop now,” and quotes Mast news releases and comments that have been untrue, inflammatory and misleading to coastal residents, the media and the public at large:
Tucker says all in South Florida are part of the problem and urges science to be followed, regardless of the volume of political rhetoric pushing otherwise:
Exiting SFWMD governing board member James Moran, with eight years of service on the board, says he is now convinced some Everglades activists have a hidden agenda that is unfair and harmful to the Everglades they say they wish to protect:
Homestead farmer Sam Accursio, also attending his last meeting as a SFWMD board member, puts it all in perspective. Forced to sell his multi-generational farming legacy or lose the land trying to keep farming it, his comments left some wondering who is trying to save what, for whom, and the results of decisions made that allow a farmer’s land to be flooded anytime his urban neighbors need protection from rainfall:
And finally, from the archives of a SFWMD Water Resources Analysis Coalition (WRAC) meeting in October 2018, one of many community leaders (Rev. Robert Rease) from Belle Glade summed up his feelings this way, noting the political power some have found in unfairly demonizing agriculture:
Stay tuned as we continue to try and help bring more facts to light about these issues, particularly from the agricultural side that seldom gets equal time.