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Brighton youth concerned about Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project

We are writing on behalf of the Brighton community, future Brighton community and the ecosystem. We would like to start by saying that, as young community members, we don’t like what you are planning for us; the casualties would be awfully great, it wouldn’t really fix a problem and currently the land is still being used. As you can already guess we are speaking of the Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.

Eighth-grade PECS students made posters in protest of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project. From left to right, Kalyn Hammil, Angelie Melton, Dakoya Nunez and Karey Gopher. (Courtesy photo)

We feel the root of the problem would only be temporarily fixed and not a more permanent solution. Think about it; you are already taking green algae water and moving it to another place to sit. A fellow student attended the community meeting held on the Brighton Reservation and our classmate stated she did not hear one thing about the contaminated water being altered so it is clean water. The point was made multiple times that the water could be used as clean water if we needed it, however since there was no mention of how the water in the reservoir would be cleaned, how can we use that water to sustain life. With the current plan, we do not see how the water sitting in the reservoir can help us.

Another point is that we are indigenous people of the area, Seminole Indians to be exact, and our culture is very nature based. The area that you are currently looking at for this project is home to many endangered species as well as culturally historic ground for our people. The area that you have in mind for this project is not only part of our indigenous history, but also part of Florida history as well as United States history. If you take a look around and see Mother Nature, it is beautiful and many people like to see natural beauty, but you will be taking that away from future generations and us. You cannot fight Mother Nature, she has so much power. Every man-made thing is bound to break at some point, so why don’t we stop trying to make everything ‘human perfect’ and fix ourselves to see that what we are currently doing to the earth isn’t good. We need to find a solution to prevent the algae blooms and other toxins in the water, instead of building another problem. Look through the eyes of anyone from this side of the restoration project; we have spent decades trying to protect our people and the planet so that the future generations can see an amazing world.

As humans ‘civilize,’ we tend to pollute more and more. Why don’t we just use the money to help stop polluting Lake Okeechobee? We understand that it will take a while to clean up and the taxes on Floridians could possibly go up but we think it would be better to have a permanent solution than a temporary one. Why not prevent the problem instead.

As I mentioned earlier in the letter, the casualties would be awfully great, meaning that it is so close to residential areas that if it breaks, or more-so when it breaks, so many lives could be at risk. We don’t think it is good for people to live every day with the thought that if it rains hard enough there could be more water than usual, as well as wondering when will the reservoir leak or even worse, break. We are also concerned with the fact that half of our year is hurricane season. Are there any plans on how the extra water from rainfall will affect the reservoir?

In the end, what we are trying to say is the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project is not a very good idea for anyone or anything in the proposed location. The risk of loss of life, to endangered species and losing a culturally historic area outweighs the ju

stification of the watershed. Perhaps a more reasonable solution would be to move the project further north to catch the contaminated run-off water where it occurs, before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.

Thank you for taking our concerns into consideration and taking the time to listen to the younger generation. If we can understand that this project is not the answer maybe you should reconsider your options.

This letter was written on behalf of seventh- and eighth-graders at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter Middle School in Brighton. Their teacher Suraiya Smith sent it to Colonel Jason Kirk, district commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.

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