Tag Archives: fanjul family

Okeelanta Corporation, Mapping Out the Future of Water, SLR/IRL

file-page1-2.jpgToday I will continue my series “Who Owns the Land South of Lake Okeechobee? Mapping out the Future of Water.” Hurricane Matthew caused a slight interruption, but now we shall continue. ūüôā

Here we go!

Number two on the TCRPC map (above) is Okeelanta Corporation. “Okeelanta is a division of Florida Crystals, the word¬†is a combination of two made into one. “Okee,” coming from “Okeechobee,” and “lanta,” coming from “Atlantic.” Cleverly named for a location between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean. Okeelanta was a historic town founded by writer and politician Laurence E. Will’s father. The town stood about one mile below South Bay. It was destroyed in the 1928 Hurricane: http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/okeelanta

I’m not sure if the company Okeelanta is named after the town, but I believe it was bought, and I know it is now owned by the Fanjul family of Cuba who owns Florida Crystals. As many of us know, the Fanjul family came to South Florida because of Fidel Castro’s 1959 Marxist Revolution. The family moved to Florida along with other wealthy, dispossessed families. Here with the support of the US Government the Fanjuls rebuilt their fortune as the US grew to be a leader in the world sugar trade, at the expense of the Florida Everglades.

In regards to the map, it must be noted that compared to US Sugar Corporation, the Fanjul family are relative”newcomers.” This is why their land holdings are further south of Lake Okeechobee. They acquired lands as the industry expanded after 1960.

Sometimes I say “until the Cuban Revolution there were only 100,000 acres of sugar cane in the EAA.” This is probably off, but you get the point. As Laurence E. Will in his historic book noted in a previous post: “After the Cuban Revolution, for a short time our government permitted the unrestricted panting of sugar cane…”

Again I stress that the expansion of these lands by the US Government is what allowed this area to be convered from Everglades to sugar fields, and it is only our state and national governments that can encourage and fairly compensate land owners for lands purchased in the EAA to allow water storage in an area that should never have been 100% developed in the first place. We have to encourage land owners to please be a part of the solution of allowing storage of excess water and helping more clean water move south…

According the TCRPC map Okeelanta owns 86,793 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA.) A lot!

I have colored in the #2s ¬†with orange highlighter so you can see these lands more clearly and how the intersect with Senator Joe Negron’s circles for possible proposed land acquisition. Remember that 9 days ago I colored in United States Sugar Corporation’s (USSC) lands in purple crayon. They are #1.

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So now we can clearly “see” what lands are owned by USSC and by Okeelanta.

“Okeelanta Corporation, a sugarcane company, engages in farming, milling, packaging, and distributing sugar cane. It has a 67,000 acres facility that includes cane fields, a mill, refinery, packaging and distribution center and a power plant. The company was incorporated in 1984 and is based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Okeelanta Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Florida Crystals Corporation.”

As we shall see in future posts, the Fanjul holdings have various names, thus they own more land than noted in the map above. Like them or not, the family is clever just like the name “Okeelanta” and infamous for their political influence. The two most well known brothers are noted for ties to different political parties: ¬†Alfonso Fanjul, Democratic Party while Pepe, contributes to Republican Party. For the record the other brothers names are¬†Alexander and Andres. And they have a sister. Her name is Lillian Banjul Azqueta and she is president and founder of New Hope Charities.

As controversial as the family is, they do a lot of good for the poor Glades communities and they own what we want. We must work together for a better water future for Florida that includes our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Vanity Fair article IN THE KINGDOM OF BIG SUGAR: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2001/02/floridas-fanjuls-200102

New Hope Charities: http://www.newhopecharities.com.

Okeelanta Corp.: http://broward.jobing.com/florida-crystals-okeelanta-corporation

Florida Crystals: https://www.floridacrystals.com

Fanjul Bros. WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanjul_brothers

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Senator Negron’s proposed land purchase map 2016/17

Sugarland Road Trip to the Caloosahatchee, Celebrating 50 Years of Friendship along the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon

Martin County High School Class of 82 friends celebrated their 50th birthday on the Caloosahatchee, the sister river to the St Lucie.
Girlfriends from the Martin County High School Class of 1982 celebrating our 50th birthdays in Sanibel/Captiva, the area of the Caloosahatchee River, Lee County, Florida.

This past weekend, my girlfriends from high school decided to travel across the state to celebrate our 50th birthdays!

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It was a great time. We stayed in the area of the Caloosahatchee River which is the sister river the the St Lucie River. Both rivers have been plumbed to take overflow waters from Lake Okeechobee that Nature meant to flow south to the Everglades. The Caloosahatchee, in fact, is the “bigger sister,” in that when the rains come, she takes three to four times as much polluted, fresh water as we do—she is longer and larger than ourself. Ironically now, year long, ¬†the river needs constant small releases of fresh water from the lake as she becomes too saline. The system is suffering as is the St Lucie.

Caloosahatchee River was the first estuary to be channelized and connected to Lake Okeechobee in the late 1800s by Hamilton Disston.
Caloosahatchee River was the first estuary to be channelized and connected to Lake Okeechobee in the late 1800s by Hamilton Disston. (Photo, CRCA)

“Caloosahtchee” means “river of the Calusa,” after the native peoples who lived and thrived there thousands of years ago.

So how does the Calooshatchee compare to the St Lucie? Well, according to the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association, (CRCA), as sea levels receded after the last ice age, a series of lakes connected by wet prairies fed a tiny lake in the center of a valley feeding a “tortuously” long, crooked river that flowed slowly west to the Gulf of Mexico. So the Calooshatchee like the St Lucie drained to the sea but was never “connected” to Lake Okechobee.¬†

But then entered “modern man.”

In 1881, investor and business man, Hamilton Disston, bought four million acres of Florida lands for development and agriculture getting the state out of debt.  His first project was to drain the land around lake Okeechobee.

He dynamited the water fall between Lake Flirt and the Caloosahatchee and connected an old Indian passage from the Caloosahtchee to the lake. With that and the dredging and channeling of the mouth of the Kissimmee, the lake dropped tremendously, and although Disston committed suicide in a bathtub after the Panic of 1893, he inspired those following him to continue the drainage machine that has formed the Florida  we know today.

After the floods and hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 ¬†the Caloosahatchee was straightened, deepened, and widened, draining surrounding agricultural lands and controlling flood waters. ¬†The “improvements” continued again in the the 1950s as more people moved into the area.

The story of the Calooshatchee is very similar to the St Lucie.

On another note, one of the most interesting parts of getting to the Caloosahatchee with my friends was driving “under” Lake Okeechobee taking Highways 441, to 80, to 27 and passing through the sugar towns of Belle Glade, South Bay, Clewiston and La Belle. It was a ¬†three and a half hour drive from Stuart to Captiva and most of the drive was through the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The Everglades Agricultural Area is 700,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee.
The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is 700,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee. To drive through them one drives just south of the lake.

As we were driving through we were amazed to think that historically the waters of Lake Okeechobee went south,  as today, south of the lake,  it is sugar fields for as far as the eye can see! And for many, many miles you are driving right next to the dike.

“This is kind of weird…”

Mile upon mile of sugar fields is the view while  traveling south of the lake.
Mile upon mile of sugar fields is the view while traveling south of the lake.
Southern dike around Lake Okeechobee looks more like a hill of grass.
Southern dike around Lake Okeechobee looks more like a hill of grass.

I reminded my friends of the hurricane of 1928 and the thousands of migrant workers that were killed with no alert of the coming doom. The small dike around the southern lake certainly did not look like it would hold if another monster storm came. We talked about how clueless we were as kids to the environmental effects of agriculture on our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon compared to what the children are learning today.

Of course we need agriculture but to have 700,000 acres completely cut off water flow south of the lake is an accident waiting to happen and a death sentence for our St Lucie Indian River Lagoon and for the Caloosahatchee.

As I talked about a possible third outlet to the lake, I told my friend Jill not to speed because if we were stopped, and I was in the car, we would all certainly go to jail!They laughed knowing I am an advocate for the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon an often contentious issue when it comes to sugar farming.

Once in Captiva, we had a great time, paddle boarding, riding bicycles, swimming, and going out in Sanibel/Captiva Island.

Such a wonderful time would not have been possible had the Army Corp and South Florida Water Management District been releasing masses of polluted, fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. United ¬†we are on both sides of the state, that there has to be another option for Lake Okeechobee’s water coming through our estuaries–we are sisters!

A beautiful sunset over the convergence of Pine Island Sound and the Caloosahatchee.
A beautiful sunset over the convergence of Pine Island Sound and the Caloosahatchee , our sister river.