Clawson eyes relief from Lake O brown-water discharges

Steve Stefanides

It was a very unassuming and soft-spoken individual that strode to the podium to address an issue that he has taken on as a personal mission.

U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson tells a Marco audience Monday night he is concerned about the effects of Lake Okechobee brown-water discharges.

It was in 2011 when then-private citizen Curt Clawson strolled along the beach with his parents and noticed the change in clarity of the Gulf waters near their home on Hickory Island. It was there that his father suggested he should do something about it.

Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, took his dad’s advice seriously and since his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, he said he has been on a mission to see what could be done to help constituents and the entire South Florida region.

Curt Clawson shares a moment with retired NBA player and coach Allan Bristow while his wife Etoila listens in.  Bristow is last year’s president of the Marco Sport Fisherman’s Club

Clawson sees the resolution of Lake Okeechobee water problems as two separate issues, with the first and simplest being the containment of waters being discharged. The second portion of the solution lies in providing a “filtration flow way” to the Everglades.

“We are not saying that we want to send black water south into the Everglades, but instead to utilize the natural filtration of the marshes to help clean up those waters,” said Clawson. “This will require bring together all the stakeholders in the area south of the lake in a cooperative not combative coalition.”

The congressman from the 19th congressional district was on Marco at the invitation of both the Marco Island Sport Fisherman’s Club and the Marco Island Civic Association to discuss discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee and the impact they are having on the environment on both the east and west coasts.

Clawson praised the progress being made on the containment plans being worked on between the state of Florida and the federal government and was careful not to be critical of any groups or individuals.

“Although we don’t always agree with every aspect of everything on the table, we agree we have to find a solution to the problem,” said Clawson. Fixing the dike and providing those containment areas is vital, in Clawson’s opinion.

“What we see with the dirty water is a symptom of the problem,” said David Rasmussen, a member of the fishing club.

“To be fair, there is a good amount of runoff that comes from north of the lake and that needs to be addressed,” said Clawson. He was referring to pollutants from septic systems, fertilizer and agricultural contaminants leaching into the Kissimmee River and then down into Lake Okeechobee that compromise that body of water.

“Conservation and conservative values can go hand in hand,” said Clawson at the beginning of the meeting as many in the audience would shake their heads in agreement. “What we have to do is work together on making these solutions work for everyone.

“I’m committed to work with you all to find a solution, the funding and implementing the plan to deal with this issue,” said Clawson.