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If we want to have lush grassflats in our future, the time to focus on resolving our water problems is now.

I’m curious about all those wanting to protest and complain but who aren’t willing to actually do anything to address or fix problems. I’m crystal clear that the squeaky wheel gets the attention, but a dab of grease won’t fix our problems. We certainly must raise awareness to our problems, but that’s useless if we can’t offer and promote workable solutions. Hoping things will fix themselves got us into this mess.

We need to identify sources and specific problems, so they can be addressed intelligently. Getting your face on social media is not helping solve our problems. Money is the root of our problems. My pitch is balancing development with our long-term physical and economic health. Huge projects like the proposed Sunseeker Resort can grasp the idea that keeping our area and waters healthy is in their best interest also. If we don’t melt this water quality snowball, it will overpower our waters.

My life experiences have finally taught me that it’s harder to work with someone after you make them an adversary. Jobs, businesses and industry each have a legitimate niche to fill. The trick as I see it is to figure out how to work with powerful problems to achieve improved conditions for everyone. But those who want to develop have more experience than us, plus a lot more money and power.

Attacking and protesting might feel good in the short term, but won’t solve anything. Better to seek common-sense solutions and execute them in planned, vetted, workable ways. Start out small and build a solid base, earning respect and gaining strength. This requires serious commitments of time and energy, and a willingness to compromise.

Look at Mosaic for an example. Twenty years ago, they had a well-earned terrible reputation. Then they got smart and went into public relations big time. They hired smart folks and learned to buy significant media exposure to improve their image.

I have problems with their industry’s excess water use and track record of leaking nutrients into our watersheds. I’m not impressed with their so-called reclamation of our natural environments. But I understand they have much deeper pockets and power than I do. Should I pick a fight with them, trying to be David throwing a rock at Goliath? Maybe we try to teach them that a long-term sustainable business plan is better than short-term pillaging.

Many like to attack Big Sugar. It sounds great. But here’s a question: How do we accomplish our goal of improving water quality by attacking the most powerful lobby interest in our state? They have federal farm subsidies and are much better organized and funded than any opposition.

Seek common ground. Look for compromises that help both parties. Sugar farming has, to my understanding, made significant strides to clean up its practices. I hear and understand opposing views, but I also know fishermen who share stories of amazing fishing in the drainage canals protesters claim are so polluted.

Some say The Mouse is the problem. Yes, the Lake O watershed’s headwaters are close to Disney. But there are millions of folks in and around Orlando, plus hundreds of thousands more along the Kissimmee River as it runs south.

Listen good, because here’s the unvarnished truth: You can blame mining or sugar farming or ranching or Disney or any damn thing you want. The fact is we all — you, me, and everyone else who lives or visits here — contribute to our water problems!

So, we can all pack up and evacuate the state, or we can help contribute to working solutions that reduce our nutrient inputs. Our waters can recover from huge population growth without consideration to our environments, but it will take more than words or wishing. It will require action from each of us. Look to the big picture and sustainable growth. We must seek balance with the diligence we sought big-bucks growth, or else write Florida off and move elsewhere.

The Charlotte County commissioners have scheduled a red tide summit from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Charlotte County Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda. Commissioner Bill Truex proposed this and will be the moderator. The goals are to gather facts and plan actions. Most major players are expected to contribute ideas and offer solutions.

It should be interesting. I’m all for discussion and gatherings to focus on addressing red tide and other water quality issues. I wonder if our explosive growth with minimum impact fees or considerations will come up?

I don’t think developers and construction businesses suffered the same impacts as our water-related ones have. My fishing guide business income was cut in half by red tide impacts last year. Bookings over the last six months simply evaporated with the negative red tide press. Some guides that are more mobile salvaged more trips and had good fishing, but a lot of us have been well and truly whacked.

Ignoring problems and expecting them to fix themselves is not an answer. I’m seeking answers to problems. I want us to all thrive. If we continue to kick the can down the road, there will be even larger problems tomorrow. Listen and act now, or we will all pay dearly for ignoring our water problems and growth challenges.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.

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