By: Chris Felker, Lake Okeechobee News
OKEECHOBEE — A virtual celebration has broken out in the internet forums of many different groups concerned about the aquatic spraying that’s been taking place on lakes around Florida over the suspension of the state’s program beginning next week. There’s been an especially joyous reaction in this region, with sportsmen and clean water advocates expressing relief at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s announcement Wednesday night.
But there’s also not a little bit of skepticism mixed in, still.
Ramon Iglesias, co-founder of Anglers for Lake O and general manager at Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort in Clewiston, was among the first to break the news on Facebook Jan. 23 that beginning next week, spraying for aquatic vegetation is being halted temporarily by order of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.
During that pause, announced the letter from divisional Director Kipp Frohlich, “staff will work to set up meetings where we can collect public comment regarding aquatic plant management.” A call to Mr. Frohlich Thursday morning was not returned by deadline.
Debbie Culp of the Florida Clean Water Network — a watchdog association of more than 300 groups and thousands of people who support and call for vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act — called it “great news, one big step in the right direction, and a long time coming.”
She posted thanks on the group’s Facebook page to several people in particular for their advocacy, “carrying the torch in enlightening FWC and increasing public awareness”: Pastor Scott Wilson of Williston; James R. Abernethy of North Palm Beach, a professional photographer and ocean/clean water activist who calls himself a “marine life saver”; Jim Watt of Jupiter, a self-described “wildlife guy” who argues that the state’s herbicide spraying program is violating Florida’s own environmental laws; Mr. Iglesias and Ms. Martin of Clewiston; and the 172,000 people who signed Mr. Abernethy’s petition on change.org titled “Stop the State-Sanctioned Poisoning of Our Lakes and Rivers.”
Ms. Culp singled out Dr. Jack Rudloe of Panacea “for first showing the dangers in glyphosate on sealife and bonding of other chemicals to glyphosate that can increase harm.” That chemical is the main active ingredient in the solution being sprayed on the lake vegetation…