I came here for the beautiful waters and great fishing. I’m having to consider moving away because we have allowed our area to grow faster than we could handle. Our impact fees do not cover the impacts of new growth.
My lifestyle is no longer sustainable here now because of our water quality issues. My business has been virtually shut down since last May. I can’t afford to stay here if our water quality problems aren’t resolved. Red tides and hurricanes have crippled our areas fishing guides and water-related business for several years. We suffered economic impacts from Hurricane Charley and BP oil spill press.
I’ve lived here for 38 years; planted roots here. I bought a waterfront home here on Lemon Creek in 1987. I had expected to live out my life here but now I’m forced to consider alternatives.
If water quality problems continue, how many others will be forced to reconsider their decision to live here? I’m guessing I’m not the only one suffering because of red tide and negative press. One household is not a big deal, but how many others face similar dilemmas? If many of us are forced out, what happens to property values?
I was watching the Charlotte County Commission meeting and listening to all the thoughtful discussions on our growth. They were addressing the challenges of maintaining public access to our parks through Sunseeker’s projects. You wouldn’t believe how complex it is to include guaranteed times for public passage to the park facilities. Commissioner Tiseo tried to include times for public access and ask about continued fishing access, even after-hours. All were concerned, but a couple felt ambiguous. They decided to address it later.
Our county commissioners do care about our county’s best interest and safety. But we need to consider that they can only work from the knowledge and experiences of their lives. Because of their backgrounds, they understand business and development, but they don’t understand our water quality challenges.
We need to educate them, or they won’t understand. By the time you read this, I will have already attended their water quality summit on Tuesday. I personally believe we have intelligent, concerned commissioners doing their best to govern and balance all their responsibilities as best they can.
Before you criticize them, walk a mile in their shoes. Make the time to educate yourself before you complain. Get an understanding of how huge their responsibilities are. Also learn about all the accomplishments of our county government; especially the staff. I can assure you I don’t want any of these jobs.
Let’s address two problems we can request their assistance on. First, septic tanks; second, fertilizer and landscaping.
According to an article by Brendan Rivers (http://bit.ly/2sSQjs6), Dr. Brian Lapointe, a researcher at Florida Atlantic University, states that septic tanks are a major factor behind our recent spike in harmful algae blooms. These are the most important and urgent issues facing Florida. A recent study conducted in Charlotte County found that 71 percent of septic system here did not meet standards. This is a real problem — improperly functioning septic systems feed harmful algae blooms.
He further explained that this nitrogen problem has expanded globally in the past five decades, resulting in more harmful algae blooms, more areas effected, higher economic costs and more public health impacts. Harmful algae blooms have devastated our tourism, economies, water quality and wildlife. Help must come from state and even federal governments; local government can’t deal with such a broad issue. According to LaPointe, we have 39 percent of the state on septic, and more than 2.6 million septic tanks in our state.
In rural upland areas, septic systems can function properly. But not at sea level, and not where the population density is high. Too many nutrients leach out of the soil and into our waterways. We need to stop all construction of new septic systems in areas where we already know they will be an immediate problem.
As for fertilizers and landscaping: We need to adapt our concepts of what Florida landscaping is. When we design and landscape our roads, the current design is not best use of money or resources. Look at Winchester Road in Englewood for example. It’s beautiful — but at what expense?
The green grass is torn up nightly by our wild hog population. How much time and money have we spent trying to keep it up? How much did installation cost, maintenance, constant up keep? We need to consider a natural landscape that doesn’t require watering, cutting and replacing constantly. And not just in public spaces, but at home as well.
Grass clippings, fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides are problems, not solutions. If you question how much runoffs contribute, just look at the retention ponds by our roadways. Notice how fast the cattails grow? It’s scary and shows us how much nutrients are in our runoffs. County officials, check how often these cattails require cutting back!
Our entire way of life is changing. Are we smart enough to change the way we do everything? If we fail to compensate or cut back our nutrient runoffs, we are doomed. Our waters are our lifeblood. Contamination is poisoning that lifeblood. I hope to see more interest in our solutions, not just complaining. Thank you for caring.
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.