Politicians turn to communist tactics to seize land

Ecological extremists have really done a number on the residents of Martin County, Fla. It’s the kind of thing that happens in communist Cuba. Or in Bolivia. But not in these United States.

The city of Stuart is trying to find a way to block pollution of the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary caused by the discharge of tainted water from north Lake Okeechobee, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping to reduce the threat to the structural integrity of its lake dike.

Egged on by a witch hunt by the liberal Stuart News, city commissioners are preparing to ask government agencies to seize huge tracts of private land owned by sugar and agricultural farmers so it can be flooded to relieve estuary pollution.

You read that right. An executive director of an environmental group told the Stuart City Commission that “the best way to control the level of Lake Okeechobee [is] to release water southward … rather than east through the St. Lucie River and west through the Caloosahatchee River.” But releasing the water southward through a flow-way requires flooding hundreds of thousands of private acres south of Lake Okeechobee.

That land is owned by sugar, citrus and agricultural farmers large and small. They make their living by farming. By itself, the sugar industry employs over 12,500 people who depend on the work to feed their families. But now, the eco lunatic fringe and the Stuart News have convinced a governmental body to ask the state of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District to land-grab this private property through the eminent domain process.

Florida EvergladesIt’s time for some facts to be trotted out: For starters, this willful taking of private land by elected officials so that farms can be flooded to protect “public” interests goes against the values cherished by Americans. The harm to Martin County estuaries was not caused by farming south of Lake O. It was caused by heavy rainfall into the water system flowing south from Orlando into the lake, which is now overloaded. That excess water from the northern basin, which includes local drainage, lawn fertilization and hundreds of thousands of septic tanks in Martin County and places north, accounts for over 95 percent of the water volume and 95 percent of the phosphorous in the lake.

Yes, both the East and West Coast estuaries have very real problems — toxic green algae and sediment-laden water — but environmental groups are churning up residents by telling them the quick, easy solution is to send the water south to flood the sugar and farm fields. How arrogant to say the needs of coastal people outweigh the needs of innocent farm people.

Every state and federal agency involved in restoration has reviewed the science and technical aspects of a southern “flow-way” from Lake Okeechobee, reaching these conclusions:

  1. The system has been changed too dramatically for the water to flow south naturally.
  2. There are many other projects that provide more benefits to more parts of the system.
  3. During average to dry years, a flow-way would drain the water system, harming the conservation areas and Everglades Park.
  4. During wet years, like 2013, the entire system south of Lake O would be full of water, destroying farming communities and providing very little relief to the estuaries.
  5. There needs to be much more storage and water treatment north of Lake O, which is where the problem arises.

What is outrageous is that Martin County politicians and eco extremists want to fix their dirty water problem by flooding out farming in other counties. Well, the polluted water problem will not be solved by dumping toxic water into someone else’s backyard. What is particularly disgraceful is the dirty water did not come from farms south of Lake O.

This problem should be fixed at the source, which is north of Lake O. And politicians who want to use the heavy hand of government to confiscate private property for selfish purposes should have their own hands slapped. Hard.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.


  • Chance Hammond

    The column does not hit hard enough at the Stuart News, aka Treasure Coast Newspaper, for its supermarket tabloid treatment of sugar farmers over the last few months. Their demonizing of the sugar industry is approaching vendetta levels. The truth is that very little water or pollution comes into Lake Okeechobee from cities and farms to the south— and, the water that leaves the sugar fields is far cleaner than the water that enters.

  • Tiki Steve

    Tax subsidies pay big sugar. End the tax subsidies in the farms bill this September and then they could have a leg to stand on. This is exactly what eminent domain is for, to protect citizens and not to have another corporation profit from the seizure of the land. https://www.change.org/petitions/the-congress-of-the-united-states-of-america-stop-the-sugar-subsidies-in-the-sept-2013-farm-bill

  • Khymie Walton Ronnie Lowe

    Mr. Smith, before you start trotting out facts, I suggest you collect ALL of the facts – and report them as well. Only a true journalist will practice responsible journalism – the rest just report what they’ve been paid to say.

  • Penny Lord

    two billion in subsidies to sugar so they can play games while the estuaries die, florida’s beauty and property values for hundreds of thousands declne and health for millions suffer with the recurrent rd tides ..an industry that is directly linked to obesity which is a health crisis in this country and leads to multiple medical problems that in turn costs the tax payer has no reason to be subsidized for over 60 years …talk about takers,,,

  • Jay Bashant

    John R Smith is a few facts short of a complete story. Martin County politicians need to look out for the greater good of Martin County as the State and Federal Governments have let the chosen few do vast damage to the majority of the citizens.

  • W Steven Edmonds Jr

    So let me get this straight – when a handful of business interests decide to manipulate state and federal programs for the better part of 80 years – through honest and not so honest means to protect their crops with not one shred of regard for their neighbors or the overall impact to the state its “capitalism”, but when two communities unite to end 80 years of state sponsored corporatism through the mechanisms of public participation it is somehow related to “communism”? Because of eminent domain? The same tactic that your very PAC has utilized to build sports stadiums? This conservative political scientist and life long capitalist calls you a hypocrite. You should be ashamed of yourself. Call yourself a corporatist because you certainly do not believe or want to allow the will of the market forces to decide your fate. Big sugar would be finished without its continued subsidies (a socialist program). 5 billion since the 1940’s but the people are somehow wrong for wanting to buy back some of the lands they originally were to be leasing. Lets tout some facts shall we.

  • EenieMeenieMineyMo

    Must be nice to have heavy pockets! Nice try! Awesome propaganda. Say hi to “Pig Sugar” for me! Using scare tactics as a diversion is lower then the muck on the bottom of Lake O.


  • trena

    I would like nothing more than to flick you in the head John Smith. Your info is wrong and you have no right to spread this Propaganda. Please watch and Learn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxZM9ccgXfY&feature=youtu.be

  • trena
  • NoMo MrNiceGuy

    Very well said – the problem is owned as much by the residents in proximity to the river as anyone else. But, it is easier to blame everyone else and look to government for a bail out and blame business for your problems. Grow up people. You are not dealing with a river here, you are dealing with a larger problem. That problem is your ceding your Constitutional rights away a chunk at a time so you can go play golf and sip your Manhattan. Shamre on you.

    • Khymie Walton Ronnie Lowe

      Shame on you for not doing your research! Not one of us has ever claimed that we haven’t contributed to the problem, however our contribution is slight when compared to the billions of gallons of polluted water that is dumped on us every day because of something the gov’t created decades ago. I invite you to research the history of our water problem – starting with the Kissimmee River before they straightened it – then to the original natural flow through the Everglades – before the ACOE stopped that flow – and ending with the damage that we are now facing. If you do your research correctly – relying on facts – you will see that the larger problem was created by our government. I also invite you to visit either the west or east coast so that you can see the damage for yourself.

    • Penny Lord

      and who is on the government dole?/Its the sugar industry

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