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yesterday, 07/24/2014 at 3:58pm

Clean Water RallyWater Rally Expected to Draw Thousands

Seeking to continue withthe momentum created last year -when thousands rallied statewide to protest the horrifying results of the excess water releases from Lake Okeechobee, the organizers of last summer's successful Sugarland Rally in Clewiston and the march to the St. Lucie Locks that drew some 7,000 people have put together another event called the '2nd Annual Save Our River Clean Water Rally', which is scheduled for next Sunday, August 3rd, at Phipps Park in Stuart,Florida. This all-day event will feature speakers from both coasts, a peaceful march and a rock concert and the expected attendance is in the thousands.

"Last year we had such agreat response that it actually scared the politicians into paying attention to us, and we want to continue that momentum this year so they know we're not going away,” said Marty Baum, the Indian River Keeper and one of the event's organizers. "We are going to start at 10am with educational speakers, then we march the 1/4 mile to the Locks.”

After the march, the event will continue on into the afternoon with a 'Rock the Vote' concert where volunteers will be registering folks to vote and handing out Clean Water Declarations for them to sign.

"This year we are not allowing any politicians to speak,but we did invite them as we want them to listen,” said Baum, an activist who has been fighting the water wars on Florida’s east coast for over 25 years. "For years, the state policy has been to focus on agriculture first - we want that policy to change. We are tired of voting these guys into office and then watch them pander to agriculture - we want them to worry more about our votes than their wallets, and the only way we can do that is awareness and education. The one thing a corrupt politician fears more than anything else is educated voters.”

To that end, those attending Sunday's rally will hear from speakers representing the Sierra Club, Rivers Coalition, Florida Oceanographic Society, the Miccosukee Tribe and Love the Everglades Movement, pro surfers Jonathan Flick and Brent Mienholdand the west coast's own Dr.Karen Dwyer of the Stone Crab Alliance fresh from a successful fight against fracking in Collier County.

"We want to show everyone that the only solution is toclean the water and send it south,”Marty told us. "They say it isn'tpossible, and that's a lie - we havebeen sending nearly a million acrefeet south for the last five yearsand it's been cleaned to less thanthe 10ppb (parts per billion) ofphosphorous that's required bylaw. The only problem is with thegreat volume of water - how toclean that much all at once. Plan 6is the one concept to clean thewater so it's morally and legally sound to send it south."

Following the speakers, allpoliticians present who agree to stand behind that message will beinvited to lead the participants tothe locks, will they will peacefullystand in solidarity.

"Last year over 7,000 people showed up, and it was the first year everything finally changed - the governor didn't veto any of the water bills and the politicians started paying attention to us,” Baum said. "We need to keep that momentum going - especially in an election year. The ballot box is our only recourse, and I really think this is becoming a world wide ground swell against Big Sugar.”

Locally, activist John Heimis organizing a caravan of people who will be attending the event and/or camping overnight at Phipp's Park - a state campground.

"We have an event page on Facebook called 'West to East to End the Lake O Release',” he said. "Right now about 50 people have signed up to say they are going and we are looking for more as this is going to be a really big event. Hopefully we can keep the spirit going and next year have a huge event on our side. We need to keep this issue at the front of politicians' minds to let them know we are not going away.”

Heim said he is excited to be carrying on in the united spirit that the Sugarland Rally represented and that he expects to see folks from as away as Venice join the west coast's caravan.

"We are all going to meet at the WalMart on Colonial Boulevard at 6:30am and take off together across the middle of the state - right through the sugarlands,” he said. "We invite anyone who wants to join us, those who need rides can comment on our Facebook page or call me at 407-460-6452.”

For more information on the event itself, visit theirFacebook page or Google '2nd Annual Save Our River Clean Water Rally'.

Keri Hendry Weeg