At the March 16 meeting of the County Coalition for Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston City Commissioner Phillip Roland asked the board to step back in time with him as he shared memories of Lake Okeechobee’s past.
“I am 24 years old and I get out of the service, and that’s 1964,” he began.
“I’m fishing off the end of the reef out in front of Moonshine and I see this green glare on the water, and I don’t know what the hell it is.
“I keep looking at it. So I ride out in my boat and to look at this green stuff, never seen it on the lake. It was the first time I saw a green algae bloom.
“Now this is before spraying, but my dad had informed me in 1960 when I went in the service and the Kissimmee was cut in that year, and the Indian Prairie and the Harney Pond, the triple canal system as they call it, that they had just ruined his lake – his lake, because he fished it seven times a week.
“To think back, this is before any spraying was done on the lake. No spraying. When I was 30 years old, there was no spraying done on the lake. And then it starts with a four-boat operation run by the Corps of Engineers.
“Then, go forward 10 years, and South Florida Water Management has taken over, and it’s six boats. Six boats, spraying on the lake.
“Today we have 20 boats, 20 boats spraying almost every day that they can get out that the wind doesn’t stop them.
“A sustained wind of 12 mph, they don’t spray.
“They spray most every day on that lake.
“This is 20 boats spraying poison on that lake. If you cut a diagonal line across the lake, one part is sand, the other part is basically muck. The sand that I can fish – and I guided the first time when I was 13 years old – but all up the shoal was sand.
“Today you fish the sand, you don’t see sand. There is a black silt on that sand. You don’t see sand. You get back up in shallows, back in the Monkey Box, back off Harney Pond; in there, you can see bottom, but it’s not sand.
There is something else on that sand.
“Today, we have lost our fishery around Clewiston, there’s no fishery,” he said.
“I went with a biologist the other day because I had raised the devil with the girl who is in charge of the spraying on the lake,” he continued.
“Her boss came down. We went out on the lake,” he said. “We went to an area called Coot Bay. I almost cried. It was solid mud bottom, floating tussocks of mud.
“I did get them to agree to cut the old trails that will help flush the bottom of the lake, but I am telling you the spraying that is going on the lake,” he said.
The spraying is destroying the habitat for the fisheries, he said.
Commissioner Roland asked the coalition to support the resolution to limit spraying of non-native aquatic.
“That resolution we adopted is asking them to spray three months out of the year, and not spray nine months out of the year,” said Mr. Roland.
“Nine months out of the year, you have bedding fish, whether it’s bass, specks, brim or shellcracker.”
Mr. Roland asked the members of the coalition to take the resolution back to their counties and for discussion. He also asked the 16-county coalition to consider adoption of the resolution at a future meeting.