CLEWISTON — Floridians from the East and West coasts set out to rally at Clewiston’s Herbert Hoover Dike Boat Ramp on Saturday morning of July 14.
Around a hundred participants organized as the “Save Our Fisheries Convoy,” lead by Josh Greer, a charter fishing guide from Punta Gorda. “I’m not here to protest, I’m not here to point fingers, I’m here to come as communities together,” said Mr. Greer.
Frustrated by water quality and management issues of their coastal waterways an assortment of fishermen, marine outfitters, motorcyclists, and concerned citizens, along with numerous reporters showed up to address Lake Okeechobee water system.
The City of Clewiston and citizens were well prepared for the event with information booths, a stage platform, and even hotdogs prepared by the local Future Farmer of America students. This welcoming approach took many coastal activists by surprise and brought much tensions surrounding environmental debates to ease. Clewiston residents are also advocates for clean water quality and were ready to step to the challenge whenever Lake Okeechobee was blamed for the coastal algae crises.
#SlowtheFlow, Let it grow, Protect Lake O, is a call to action and message organized by Ramon Iglesias, the general manager of Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina and Resort. “We need to slow the flow coming into Lake Okeechobee… from the Kissimmee River watershed,” he explained.
#Let It Grow is a reference to the poor over-spraying practices of aquatic vegetation management with Florida Fish and Wildlife Services. Grasses in Lake Okeechobee serve as a natural filter to cleaning the water, but currently too much is being eradicated. “Stop pouring chemicals into the water, let the lake filter it,” said Mr. Iglesias.
Taking to the stage, Mayor Mali Gardner welcomed everyone to “America’s Sweetest Town.” Joining her on the platform was Josh Greer, Ramon Iglesias, Okeechobee Fishing Captain Scott Martin, and District 80 Representative Byron Donalds.
“Lake Okeechobee is a 750 square mile lake, with Fa 3.5 million acre water shed, where everything from Orlando to South is discharged into Lake Okeechobee … I say WE DEMAND we stop the unbelievable amount of water coming down from the Kissimmee river into Lake O and drowning the heartbeat of the Everglades,” said Mayor Gardner. “Together we can keep our communities strong, Slow The Flow!”
“Save Our Fisheries Convoy” leader Josh Greer said he hadn’t brought the coastal communities in to point fingers, but to stand together as Floridians for clean water.
“Without the Everglades, we don’t have a Florida.” he said.
Captain Scott Martin shared his knowledge and experiences on Lake Okeechobee. He identified the over-spraying and high lake levels as extinguishes to the lake’s natural filter system. “We need to promote the grass to grow, how do we do that?” he said. “Lake Okeechobee does not have a filter, that means water going out is not being cleaned… I challenge the Army Corp of Engineers, the governor, and everyone in government to start managing this lake on promoting the grass to grow.”
At the end of the event as the crowd cleared out, a group of young adults from Clewiston all ran and jumped off the boat ramp into the water to prove Lake Okeechobee isn’t toxic. Boating and fishing captains offered boat tours of the lake so the media and coastal visitors could see Lake Okeechobee conditions for themselves.