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Put a word in for the environment — vote

November 2, 2018
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It's always good to know someone is reading your column. I was stopped by a lady who wanted to inform me about my mistaken claim: fall brought maple sugar treats. She was absolutely right.

Maple sap rises in the spring, creating the syrup to flow, not the fall. Thanks for the call out.

Tuesday is voting day, Nov. 6, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and it's time to put a word in for our environment. It is the General Election, which generally has a low turnout, but there are lots of issues that need answers.

As of last Friday, a week ago, 81,573 early votes had been cast here. I am one of the early voters; I beat the lines, only problem, a good many people don't usually show up.

There are 12 constitutional amendments to be resolved, the most since 1998 when the state's Constitutional Revisions Commission overhauled the whole state constitution. It is so very important to know the issues that affect us, and act on them.

Along with the governor's and attorney general's race is the agriculture commissioner's race. The

Republicans have Matt Caldwell, the state Representative from the 79th district; the Democrats have Nikki Fried, an attorney who worked to get medical marijuana for the medically ill passed. The agriculture commissioner will oversee Federal Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The ag commissioner is one of the members of the Florida Cabinet. They regulate and promote.

Our long-term water situation is the biggest long-term environmental concern.The red tide and sickening green algae are health hazards. We are all aware of the large lake, Okeechobee, the liquid heart of Florida, and i's profound effect on our state. In 1928, devastating hurricanes caused the lake to overflow, so we erected the Herbert Hoover Dike to hold it back. For years the lake had drained southward, filtering the water through a slough or swamp. Nature's way of purifying water. Now it had to be sent on an east and west direction. Down the Caloosahatchee River to the west and down the St. Lucie River east to the Atlantic Ocean.

The first of the year, ahead of the summer storm season, Lake Okeechobee must have water released to lower it for the seasonal storms that start June 1. Lowering the lake creates more room to hold water expected during our rainy months. The major input into Lake Okeechobee comes from the north, the Kissimmee River. The toxic algae scum growing in the released heavy concentration of phosphorous and nitrogen found in fertilizer leaching into our waterways, jumped from 1 percent in June to 90 percent in July.

The Army Corp of Engineers controlling the releases must to weigh the health problems against the possibility of flooding that will destroy the dikes and levees, the greater of two evils. Cape Coral and Fort Myers are at the end of the Caloosahatchee releases. The discharges bring the algae with it, closing all our watering holes for swimming and entering, killing fish and seagrass beds. The toxic scum also causes rashes, nausea, and liver damage. The taxpayer's money is being used to clean up this mess.

Meanwhile, when the swamp was drained, Big Sugar bought up all that soil rich muck to grow sugarcane. The farmers and the industry grew rich and powerful on their efforts. The answer seems to be the formed Everglades Restoration committee, that calls for building reservoirs and water treatment areas to send the water south again. Politics, funding delays and court fights have hampered the Everglades restoration.

Pollution needs to be stopped before it gets to Lake Okeechobee, at the Kissim-mee River. It is hard to fault Big Sugar and sugarcane owners that don't want to sell their profitable business, their livelihood.

Scientists say, Florida has the solution to red tide, but special interests might be in the way, it was recently published. Sugar no longer controls Florida's economy, tourism does. The big elephant in the room is, money talks and Big Sugar has it.

We are as responsible as Big Sugar if we let our fertilizer drain into the waterways. Education and action are essential to combat this situation. As my favorite comic pundit, Pogo, says, we have met the enemy, and he is us. (There I go dating myself again.) Vote for the environment.

Trees give us oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide in the air we breathe, and so much more. Shade in the summertime, cooling our neighborhoods and homes, building supplies, and wood burning in fireplaces to snuggle-up for warmth. Thank one.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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