Residents’ Message to Army Corps: This is NOT a Game

People are waiting hours for two minutes at the microphone. The stories they’re telling at the Army Corps’ public meetings on water management are sometimes hard to listen to. Watching their dogs die. Wondering whether the neurological diseases crippling their parents are connected to the toxic blooms on the river. Wondering what years of exposure will mean for their own health. For their children.

Port Mayaca Locks. Photo credit: US Army Corps of Engineers.

Or watching family businesses fail. Wondering how to start over. And where. If the house sells.

It’s all on the record now, thanks to the people who’ve lined up to document the impacts on South Florida’s water management on their lives. Their message to the Army Corps is clear: toxic discharges are destroying their communities.

But the politics of water are still a game in some quarters. The old tricks are still being played: stuff the room with scripted actors, fill up seats early to keep the public out of the room, submit so many speaking requests that all comments are limited to a few seconds, dilute the testimony with aimless statements or conspiracy theories…

The Corps deserves credit, though, especially in this week’s Stuart meetings, for preventing gamesmanship from turning these sessions into sideshows. Residents were given the chance to speak. No testimony was cut-off. The tone stayed serious and respectful. With the occasion exception…

Did a handful of attendees laugh through testimony about dying dogs, as multiple people claimed? Maybe. And maybe that’s because to some this whole process is for show, role-playing in a political pageant, just like always, with no real offense intended.

The video of that session tells a different story. To the vast majority of speakers, nothing about this issue is a game. This isn’t a rivalry or a competition for public recreation. The Army Corps and residents participating in these meetings are trying to change the management of Lake Okeechobee and the water system connected to it because right now it’s harming thousands and thousands of people.

You can hear what some speakers said in this video. And you can read excellent coverage of the Stuart meetings by TC Palm’s Gill Smart (here) and Tyler Treadway (here).

If you didn’t get a chance to contribute to the public record, there are more opportunities to attend meetings in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Miami Gardens.

If you can’t attend a meeting, it’s easy to submit comments by email–just click here to open a pre-formatted message and add your own story.

The people who honestly shared their experiences with the Army Corps so far have contributed to what may be the most important water policy reforms in South Florida’s history. Their stories matter because they have the power to change lives here. All lives.