Save the trees or save the dike?

Okeechobee couple claims mass tree clearing is ruining quality of life
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:21 PM EDT
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A couple wants to take on the Army Corps of Engineers over its project to clear trees to protect a dike.

The couple lives along a canal near Lake Okeechobee that is protected from flooding by a dike. Along a 17-mile stretch, the dike and canal are separated by a dotting of dozens of sabal palms and cypress trees.

“Beautiful cypress trees that have been here since the 30s and 40s,” says Marge Duttenhoeffer.

When she and her husband, Don, cruise a mile north of their home in their motorboat, they suddenly see no trees on that side of the canal. Dozens have been cut down, by workers from the Army Corps of Engineers. And the tree cutting is getting closer to the Duttenhoeffer home.

“I did have a bald eagle there for many years, and he left about six months ago,” added Marge Duttenhoeffer. “Otherwise, we probably could have saved this whole area with that one bald eagle.”

The Duttenhoeffers reached out to Contact 5 to see if the trees could be saved. The Army Corps of Engineers said they’re cutting trees to strengthen the help the dike.

The Army Corps of Engineers admits it wants to work fast before we get to the peak of hurricane season and a spokesman added a statement that said some trees will be spared:

"I was able to confirm with our operations folks that we have not removed any cypress trees and will not be removing any cypress trees, per our policy and protocols," the statement read.

“And these ancient cypress have to be saved,” Marge Duttenhoeffer said pointing at a pair of trees near her house.

But she says the removal sabal palms and other plants will be a loss for neighbors and the birds who flock to them.

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