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Politics

Harvey's Reality Strikes Fear in Those Who Live in Okeechobee Dike's Shadow

September 2, 2017 - 6:00am
Works shore up Herbert Hoover Dike
Works shore up Herbert Hoover Dike

Hurricane Harvey and the plight of Texans who suffered the worst brunt of the storm have a special place in the heart of Glades residents. They can identify.

Repairs to the aging earthen Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) are years away from completion. And as news of the breach to the Addicks Reservoir 19 miles west of Houston came over the news on Tuesday, Glades folks once again held their breath.

The Texas reservoir, though not a lake, functions a lot like Lake Okeechobee. It overtopped its spillway, sending an "uncontrolled release" of Harvey's floodwaters into nearby neighborhoods that may be underwater for weeks. Residents had to leave fast, many by airlift.

Every hurricane season the citizens of Clewiston, Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay pray they won't be hit head-on by a big, wet, slow-moving storm like Harvey. They know they're vulnerable. Living as they do in the shadow of the HHD, they don't feel safe -- and say they won't until the dike that separates their communities from Lake Okeechobee is repaired.

Tammy Jackson-Moore, representing the nonprofit Guardians of the Glades, says the safety of communities around the lake are always on her mind -- but after Harvey, her concern is "working overtime."

"That can happen right here in our own backyards, so that's why we are fighting. That's why we're constantly advocating for funding to make certain that this particular dike is strong," Jackson-Moore told WPTV in West Palm Beach.

Gov. Rick Scott's timing, though coincidental, was impeccable to calm Glades residents. He arrived in Palm Beach County on Tuesday to announce a business expansion -- but at the very moment Harvey was doing its worst, made one of his first orders of business assuring Glades residents he understood their state of mind.

Scott said the Texas flooding “just shows you the importance of (the need to repair the dike around Lake O). We have thousands of people who live south of the dike ...”

"He was very comforting," said Miriam Washington, a Clewiston resident. "Just to know we aren't being forgotten, and the promise he made to us is still important to him."  

In June, during a visit to South Florida Water Management District headquarters in West Palm Beach, Scott drew particular attention to $50 million in the $83 billion state budget he hopes will “jump start” a $930 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to complete repairs of the dike around Lake Okeechobee by 2022 instead of 2025, as the Army Corps of Engineers originally planned.

“Under President Obama, I kept asking for help with the dike and we didn’t get anywhere,” Scott told reporters during his June West Palm visit. “President Trump has committed to being a partner. He’s going to make sure we get that dike finished. My goal is to get the dike finished by 2022.”

Another group of Glades residents, EAA Farmers, issued a written statement Friday. 

"Farmers know firsthand just how unpredictable Mother Nature can be," the statement reads. "We send our prayers to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and are reminded that, in Florida, we can’t ignore the lessons that come from communities inundated by Harvey’s flood waters. Hurricane Harvey is a reminder of Florida’s critical need to complete repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects thousands of people around Lake Okeechobee and across South Florida.

"Expediting repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike will ensure the health and safety of all those who live in the farming communities south of Lake Okeechobee. Please support efforts to finish dike repairs for the health and safety of our communities."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

"...repairs will ensure the health and safety of all those who live in the farming communities south of the lake." My understanding is the repairs being done will return the embankment only to the prior level of safety which is very much less than the level for all other dams in the United States and most of the world. I would very much like to be wrong about this fact.

Gee, wheez! $50 million in the budget! wonder how that compares to the SFWMD yearly decrease in budget since 2010 something like $300 - $800 million/year (depending on what you count) wonder how far some of that money could have gone to fix the dike Scott's 2011 gutting of water management district budgets and now trying to earn brownie points for adding a little of that back PATHETIC

Can you believe SSN seems to be trying to block my comments by apparently activating the spam filter by my dot, dot, dot (i.e. once I took them out, the spam filter stopped blocking me) PATHETIC

You aren't being blocked, Frank. SSN doesn't block. And rarely do we delete comments. You have to be off topic, profane or otherwise inappropriate. We never delete because we disagree.

Then perhaps you need to check your "spam" blocker which four times blocked the text above, but with the "dot, dot, dot" included, and told me to report myself . . . . only after taking those out did it work . . . . same text, minus one item . . . . . so either you got hacked, or it appears you have a malfunctioning spam blocker . . . . what's your explanation? . . . . by the way, I used to report hate speech, business promotions and racial slurs from this site (per your then stated policy), but never found one of those comments removed . . . . . . . yet this is not the first time I've had strange happenings/blockage on my comments . . . . . . . . . . makes one wonder . . . . . . . .

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