NewsRegion Martin County


Martin County to host summit on Lake O land-buy bill

Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-27 12:10:43-04

The gates are closed at the St. Lucie Lock and have been for some time.  There's no toxic algae to worry about for the moment, but Lake Okeechobee was still a hot topic at Tuesday's Martin County Commission meeting.

A group of speakers asked commissioners to reconsider their public support of State Senator Joe Negron’s push to buy land south of the lake for a reservoir.

“Senate Bill 10 has potential to negatively impact family-owned farms that have been providing for our local communities with homegrown food for many generations," said David Hafner with the Martin County Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

"In light of you guys recently supporting Senate Bill 10, we're very concerned," added Julia Du Plooy with the Lake Okeechobee Business Alliance.

Commissioners had voted to back Senator Negron’s plan last week.

“There is a component south of the lake that needs to be done, some compromises need to be made," said Commissioner Harold Jenkins.

Most of the opposition was coming from the south side of the lake. Former Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor now works with the “Glades Lives Matter” movement. She's concerned about a loss of jobs and a way of life in her community

“We have all the vegetables.  Part of our area is the winter vegetable capital of the country so we are really being impacted," said Taylor.

Martin Commissioner Ed Ciampi proposed a summit that the county would put together, so all the stakeholders could meet.

"If everyone's scientists are confident in their position, let's all get together," said Ciampi.

The idea was strongly opposed by fellow commissioner Sarah Heard.

 “We’re not here to abdicate responsibility for policy to any other elected officials," said Heard.

In the end, commissioners voted 4-1 to move forward with the summit.

“It is a collective decision.  It’s not as if one person comes up with an idea and says here’s the fix.  There is no one fix," said Commission chair Doug Smith.

The commission still supports Senate Bill 10.  The goal now is to get representatives from all 16 counties that make up the South Florida Water Management District to participate.  No date has been set yet for the summit.