red tide

WaterLine file photo

A red tide fish kill on a Southwest Florida beach.

It’s time for new, very different ways of thinking. It’s an absolute necessity if we want our future to include the beautiful waters and excellent fishing that have been the hallmarks of our past here in Southwest Florida.

What we got by with in the past is no longer working. Mindless, unlimited growth cannot continue. Growth has costs, and they will be paid. I’m not picking a fight with our governing bodies; that’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Instead, I’m literally begging them to dig their heads out of the sand. They must consider the sustainability of our area’s lifestyles and its economies. We have many areas that need to be addressed if we want folks to live here.

I am very seriously being forced away from Charlotte County by our poor water quality. The growth-at-any-cost agenda here has me considering moving. I’ve lived here since 1986 when I moved from Boca Grande. I loved them both, but I can’t afford to live here anymore because of our water quality problems. Red tide (which is gone for the moment but will be back) is killing our fishing, and that’s my support system.

I’m not talking about Lake O and its problems; they are way south of here. Our longshore drift is north to south, so the problem is starting somewhere north of us. What about all the nitrogen that Sarasota County is sending us from partially treated sewage? Pinellas also dumps millions of gallons every time we have rain events. They just lost a big lawsuit and Sarasota is being sued now. Notice that many of our red tide blooms start off Manasota Key.

Yes, we absolutely need to address and fix Okeechobee’s nutrient runoff and overflow problems. But I just can’t see this issue south of us bucking the natural flow upstream, creating our problems in Charlotte Harbor and north. The water treatment plants north of us have dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into their waters. Longshore drift sends it to us. Do your own research and freak out!

I am shocked at how out of touch with our water problems the current Charlotte County commissioners are. They voted last week to raise impact fees by only 5 percent, which means we’re still charging less than half of allowed fees. Why? It’s about a third of what our neighboring counties charge. Campaigns cost money — maybe donations are driving the agendas?

The commission also voted recently to raise water fees on existing customers by 31 percent over the next few years to address water infrastructure improvements — improvements which are needed to compensate for the new developments! Why are commissioners putting these costs on us? We’re already paying tackses for it. New construction needs to pay its own way.

Is our county’s leadership controlled by growth and development dollars? They fell all over each other to pave a golden road for Sunseeker, which will escape its fair-share impact fees. Sure, they’re going to bring some jobs, and a fancy waterfront hotel will be impressive to some visitors. But at what point do we all understand that this growth without infrastructure is not sustainable?

Let me be clear: Our waters are in real trouble. Ignore a crazy old fisherman if you dare, but consider that I have nothing to gain from pointing these problems out. It won’t help my fishing business any. We must start thinking about the long haul before we completely kill our future. We’ve been taking the quick money and trashing the environments that support our lifestyles. If it continues, the future will look very different.

People move here for the water and the fun that can be had on it — boating, beachcombing, fishing, just watching the sun set over the Gulf. What will happen if we have more problems this year like we had in 2018? What would happen if we had red tide pop up right now? Most of us could not survive any more water quality problems. I’m struggling to recover, and I’ve been guiding here for 40 years. Ask all our beach business owners if they can withstand another blow. Look at beach rentals last year. We are verging on a disaster.

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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