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Industries that depend on Florida Bay: 'We're not here to play politics...we need help'

Fishing help!Fishing guides who rely on Florida Bay and other fragile waterways arrived in the capital Tuesday to plea with lawmakers to follow through on the goal of buying land to build a water-storing reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

“We’re not up here to play politics,’’ said Daniel Andrews, founder of Captains for Clean Water from Southwest Florida. “We’re here to say we have a need and we need help.”

More than two dozen fishing guides and their families spent the day meeting with more than 40 legislators and staff to urge them to support a plan by Senate President Joe Negron to build a deep-water reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that will store and clean water to flow into Florida Bay and alleviate the need to discharge polluted water into estuaries. The full Senate is expected to take up the bill on Wednesday.

“The bay is constantly on the verge of collapse and we get a lot of water, it’s just enough water and when we don’t get enough water, it’s devastating,’’ said Steve Friedman, a back-country fishing guide from Islamorada.

Last week Friedman organized a protest of Florida Keys fishing guides who assembled their skiffs in Florida Bay, spelling the word “Help!” in an aerial message intended for Tallahassee.

“The way I see this, the wick has been lit, so we don’t have more time for delays,” Friedman said Tuesday before he met with legislators and staff. “We don’t have more time for politics. It’s about doing the right thing.”

He and his colleagues said they are baffled at the failure of the political system to respond to a crisis that is costing people’s livelihoods and jobs when the notion of buying land for a southern reservoir was agreed to by the state, the federal government and the agricultural industry in 2000. Story here. 

Photo: With winds blowing at more than 20 mph Thursday, April 8, 2017, skiffs and boats — and a floating tiki — line up near Islamorada to send a message to lawmakers demanding help to improve water conditions in Florida Bay. Dylan Hansen