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The St. Johns River, a pristine natural treasure, falls prey to the greed of the Koch Borthers and their powerful allies

By       Message Samuel Vargo       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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I love the St. Johns River in Florida. It's a beautiful stretch of 310 miles of lackadaisical southern water that moves so slowly that it almost appears to be a large lake.

The St. Johns River is a living example of the slowed-down lifestyle people appear to enjoy who live south of the Mason-Dixon line. Time ticks away at a slower pace 'down South' and folks enjoy the little things - like fishing, boating, picnicking near the river, or just sitting along the riverside and watching dolphins skip the surface of the river.

When I lived in Jacksonville for several years, I often enjoyed the recreational value of this beautiful waterway. I did a little fishing off the banks of the St. Johns with some of my friends and sometimes would just sit on a bench overlooking the river at the Claude J. Yates Branch of the YMCA on Riverside Avenue in the warm Florida sunshine and take in the serenity that this precious natural gem emitted. It's a beautiful river that's unique in many ways. And it's important to keep the water of the St. Johns pure because so many people live around it and will be affected adversely if its watershed becomes polluted irreparably.

From commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Johns_River_sunset.jpg: A beautiful river in Florida, he state's longest and one of our nation's most unique, has fallen prey to serial polluters Charles and David Koch, along with some of their powerful political friends. File:St Johns River sunset.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
A beautiful river in Florida, the state's longest, and one of the most unique rivers in the U.S.A., is now under seige by greed and corruption.
(Image by commons.wikimedia.org)
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The St. Johns is unusual in that it is one of the few rivers in the world that flows south to north. Sometimes as I sat on the bench of the YMCA, I'd see dolphins jumping out of the water way on the other side of this wide river. Their schools were breathtaking - skirting the water and leaping into the air as they enjoyed frolicking to their destinations somewhere - who knows?

Numerous lakes are formed by the St. Johns or flow into it. And its width even outdoes Old Man River - at the St. Johns' widest point, it's almost three miles across. The narrowest point is in the headwaters, an unnavigable marsh in Indian River County. In all, 3.5 million people live within the various watersheds that feed the St. Johns River. The St. Johns winds through or borders twelve counties, and three of these counties are the state's largest. The drop in elevation from headwaters to mouth is less than 30 feet (9 m); and like most Florida waterways, the St. Johns has a very low flow rate - 0.3 mph (0.13 m/s) and is often described as "lazy", according to Wikipedia.

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The St. Johns River has fallen prey to the Koch Brothers and their very powerful friends, however. Georgia-Pacific/Koch Industries has been permitted to discharge up to 60 million gallons of toxic waste per day into the St. Johns, which will collect on the bottom of the river, making for a poisonous sludge collecting there, which will create a water-mass unfit for humans and animals.

Greed and powerful sycophants that jump at the commands and demands of David and Charles Koch will in time see this once pristine natural wonder turned into a place where nobody will be able to fish, water ski, or do anything else - chalk off another fresh water body to the rubber stamping of our government. According to a petition being circulated online by change.org: "The pipeline easement was issued by FDEP, as agent for the Florida Governor and Cabinet, after a highly misleading newspaper notice and no fair opportunity to request an evidentiary hearing. (http://bit.ly/1zBpbMj.) The river should be held in trust by the Governor and Cabinet for the people of Florida, not given away for private use as dumping grounds and without just compensation."

Daily Kos writer Leslie Salzillo's article on Oct. 26, 2015 shows the debauchery, greed, and deception involved with selling the St. Johns River down the proverbial river: "The unethical, and allegedly illegal, Florida indenture involving four very well-known political figures, including a 2016 presidential candidate, continues. Now, the matter is before the U.S. Supreme Court. The scandal involves Charles Koch, Davaid Koch, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Presidential candidate Jeb Bush. ""They are part of a deal made that allows Koch Industries' highly profitable paper and pulp company, Georgia-Pacific, to dump millions of gallons of toxic waste per day into the St. Johns River in Florida."

An attorney from Florida, Steve Medina, has been working on this case, pro bono, to expose the corruption that has spiraled from this scandal in Tallahassee and Putnam County, Fla. Here are some of the court documents that are available. In a letter to Daily Kos writer Leslie Salzillo, Medina complains: "The corporate media simply will not cover these issues to any significant degree," another Daily Kos article explains, also written by Salzillo.

"I think this is partly because the subject matter can be wonky," Medina writes in his letter to Salzillo. "And Americans are presumed to be stupid. But mostly I think it is because critiquing public officials as potentially 'mercenaries' when they are supposed to be 'fiduciaries' strikes a little too close to home for news outlets primarily funded by advertising revenue. Because I believe that this particular public trust case is so important and potentially precedent-setting, when I took my current job as an assistant public defender in the Florida Panhandle a couple of years ago, I got special permission to take off vacation time and continue to work on the case as long as it did not interfere with my regular job. A lot of late nights, early mornings, and weekends later, we are still alive, barely, and sure as hell kicking."

*****

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An estimate last summer of the Koch Brothers' wealth had them splitting a net worth of $41.1 billion dollars. They are two of the four richest of all Americans - the richest of the rich. Of course, this figure has obviously increased with with the King Midas touch of this duo of entrepreneurial brothers, who many see as having an uncanny and unquenchable thirst of acquiring more and more wealth, power, and even domination.

The corporate legacy of Koch Industries was made possible by the father of David and Charles Koch - the late Fred Koch - in 1940. Koch Industries' corporate predecessor was The Wood River Oil and Refining Company, founded by Fred Koch.

David and Charles Koch did well with Dad's initial investment and today, Koch Industries has been expanded far beyond oil refining. Koch Industries includes operations that include: manufacturing, distribution of petroleum, refining, chemicals, energy, minerals, fiber, pulp and paper, ranching, and commodities trading. A Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres -- an area nearly the size of Delaware -- in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records.

"Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch's lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind," according to a March 20, 2014 online offering in The Washington Post.

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)
 

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