Peaceful protest moves Pipeline: Can it move Florida to clean local waterways?

The US Army Corps of Engineers decision this week to re-route the pipeline in the Dakotas is firing up those fighting to save water quality here at home.

The US Army Corps of Engineers decision this week to re-route the pipeline in the Dakotas is firing up those fighting to save water quality here at home.

To date, it is a major win for those at Standing Rock #NODAPL, so now activists locally say if peaceful protests can move pipelines, residents can unite to get action to clean the Indian River Lagoon, and send water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades.

"We have to keep going on, we have to keep protesting," said Gayle Ryan, a retired Stuart resident turned activist, now a River Warrior, fighting for local water quality.

Ryan says says she is energized after seeing thousands get results in the Dakotas.

While the protests have grown in numbers in Stuart, to more than 10,000 residents this year, no candidates from the water movement won their races during the election. The water quality problem has grown for 60 years in Florida. Once the locks from Lake Okeechobee open, pollution pours in.

This year, the toxic water sent the entire region into a 6-month long state of emergency.

“The water needs to go south. The State needs to listen to Senate President Joe Negron, and buy the land and send it south,“ said River Warrior Ryan, "We have toxic algae blooms poisoning our ecosystem. We have pollution coming down from Orlando which is horrible form the straightening of the Kissimmee river. We have all kinds of septic sewer problems- but they should not be allowed to send it to us."

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest lasted 6 months to get results. The US Army Corps of Engineers agreed this week to reroute the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Native Americans’ water supplies.

"A win in the Dakotas gives me energy. But we can’t stop really. What happens if we lose? The entire State of Florida loses,” Ryan said.

But here in Florida, it’s not a simple fix to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River. The US Army Corps of Engineers who manage the spillway in Martin and into Lee counties, can't shut down the flows without sending the water somewhere else, or face a dike breach.

The Corps doesn't have control over all the canals on the south side of the lake. South Florida Water Managers do. Of course, the millions living in Boca, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale don't want dirty water dumped on them either.

Instead, River Warriors, along with most state scientists and marine biologists, want the state to do a massive land buy to send water south to the Everglades. That plan puts them in a stand-off with the sugar industry who owns the land, and many living in the Glades region, who fear they will be relocated, although the plans do not call for that.

"We do have to protest and get people involved." Ryan said, “There is still hope here, like there [at Standing Rock], that one day, with solidarity, a resolution will come.”

The WRDA Bill in Congress that would fund major projects around the Lake goes up for a vote in Washington this month.

A State bill in Tallahassee, The Negron Plan, would fund the purchase of land south, but South Florida Water Managers must approve it as well. So far they voted against all southern flow projects.

That is why, true to the River Warriors promise to keep fighting, they plan yet another protest on Thursday at 11 a.m. at South Florida water Management in West Palm Beach, to fight for clean water.

“The destruction of our rivers by our government is outrageous. If half the oyster population is gone, consider the acres of seagrass and the fish spawn that won’t make it to sea because politicians have allowed 279 billion gallons of filthy polluted water to be dumped on a “protected” estuary.” Ryan said.

Ryan is also joining forces to fight a pipeline from coming through Okeechobee county as well:

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