#GladesLivesMatter protests ‘Send the Water South’ campaign

Town hall meeting in Clewiston Friday

CLEWISTON — Using the tagline #GladesLivesMatter, residents of the farming communities south of Lake Okeechobee, known as the Everglades Agricultural Area — EAA or “the Glades” for short — are posting their side of the story on social media.

They live in towns whose economy is based not just on sugar cane but also on crops like sweet corn and winter vegetables.

They are tired of hearing Lake Okeechobee and the farms south of the lake being blamed for the Treasure Coast algal blooms.

They are horrified by comments they have read online by those claiming to be environmentalists, who theorize that a breach of the Herbert Hoover dike would be a good thing — no matter the cost in human life.

They are especially tired of the allegations of “polluted” lake water. South Florida Water Management District studies show the lake releases represent 21 percent of the freshwater entering the St. Lucie estuaries, along with 21 percent of the nitrogen and 13 percent of the phosphorus. That means the water from the lake is as clean or cleaner than the water entering those estuaries from the St. Lucie River’s own basin.

They point out that backpumping of water from agricultural areas into the lake was deemed illegal years ago, and that water leaving the farms is cleaner than the water that enters the sugar cane fields.

“These people are not playing,” Jawantae Diamond Williams of Belle Glade posted on Facebook. “They are really plotting to destroy us, to just wash us clean away.”

I want this fixed as much as they do, it’s our ecosystem for God’s sake! Don’t they think that farmers have a great desire to protect and take care of our planet?! And then to discuss how their lives are more important than those or the land around the lake,” posted Beck Outz Miller.

Also shared by #GladesLivesMatter is a guest commentary written by Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor, which was published by the Palm Beach Post.

Some activists’ desires apparently go far further than wanting to end Florida agriculture,” Commissioner Taylor wrote. “A Feb. 11 post of a Sierra Club email exchange suggested that “a dike failure would fix everything. The human toll would be inconceivable. The benefits to our environment would be immeasurable. ‘Inconceivable’ is right! More than 39,000 people live in Hendry County. About 13,000 people live in Glades County and 18,000 in Belle Glade. Over 7,000 people make Clewiston their home, and about 6,000 live in Pahokee. Tens of thousands more live in the surrounding unincorporated areas. Glades lives matter.”

On Friday, July 29, a town hall meeting is planned at New Harvest Church, 370 Holiday Isle Drive in Clewiston. The tagline #GladesLivesMAtter is prominently on the flier.

According to the flier, the meeting is “to inform the Glades communities about groups who are trying to make decisions that will cause inconceivable damage to our way of life.

“If these groups get their way and government officials take focus away from fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike, what will happen to us?” the flier asks.

“Send the water south, is not in our best interest.

“They don’t care about us.”

The town hall meeting will include free hamburgers, hotdogs, snacks and refreshments. For more information, call 561-285-1507.

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