The Clewiston News

Roland crusades against ‘excess’ weed spraying

Clewiston commissioner also decries lake’s conversion into a reservoir

Clewiston City Commissioner Phillip Roland began his promised one-man quest Monday night to convince the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that “excess use of defoliants” to keep aquatic weeds at bay in the south end of Lake Okeechobee is having the unintended effect of killing natural vegetation and thus damaging the lake ecosystems’ health.

Mr. Roland told his fellow commissioners, “I’m going to be hand-carrying this resolution to both coasts and around the lake asking for support and that they say to their legislators, and just a quick thing is to ask them, not to spray on the lake anytime during the bedding season.”

The commissioner contends, and the the city’s unanimously passed resolution states, “that the FWC and FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) should consider reducing the amount of defoliants sprayed into the lake and only allow spraying of defoliants in the main portion of the lake in the months of July, August and September, with canal spraying to occur year­-round, when necessary. The excess use of defoliants is damaging the bedding areas for sport fish, is adverse to lake health, and may cause unknown side effects on our environment.”

“The only time they would be able to spray is July, August and September” if he has his way, Mr. Roland vowed.

The commissioner occasionally has aired these views previously in public meetings and, finding support among his colleagues and Clewiston area fishing guides and resort operators, brought them forth to be put into resolution form. He plans, he said, to visit city and county commissions all over South Florida in the coming months to harness the power of constituents’ voices joined in unison.

The resolution also points out that the historically very high lake levels of recent months should be avoided at all costs and, further, that the powers that be should banish any intention to use Lake Okeechobee as a mere reservoir, holding too much water to sustain its hotbed of aquatic life and losing the buoyancy it supplies economically for the immediate five-county lake region and beyond.

“And also, Section 2 of this is asking them … to try to come up with an idea, really, (rather than) draining 5,500 square miles into a 700-square-mile lake; also asking that they try to keep the lake between 13-and-a-half (feet above sea level) and 15-and-a-half; and (saying that) to go above that and to continue to keep it that high, it will become a reservoir,” Mr. Roland explained.

“And that’s really what they’re trying to do with the concrete wall that they’re putting through the dike all the way around the lake,” he continued. “And once they pour this, you’re going to see your water table completely change all around this lake. And it’s not a healthy thing. I’m telling you, I know they think it’s going to make it safer, and it probably will, but without any wire or any rods or anything in that concrete, it’s just a slurry. And it’s going to crack if the sand and stuff in front of it gets washed out.”

The resolution specifically calls for stormwater treatment areas north of the lake and consideration of other alternatives such as deep well injection.

Mr. Roland wasn’t finished with his thoughts yet. “It’s not an answer to all the problems. It IS going to change the dynamics of our water and our drainage, our water that comes to us from our water table. Our water table could get down to 8 or 10 feet, and that’s not good. I mean, we’re at 3-and-a-half to 4 feet, most of the time, unless it gets dry, real dry, and this is going to change.”

Mayor Mali Gardner said, “OK, I appreciate your going to all of these municipalities.” She asked for other comments, but the other commissioners, nodding, proceeded to just vote their assent to the motion by Vice Mayor Michael Atkinson and second by Commissioner Kristine Petersen to approve the resolution.