The governments remind us that a number of restoration projects have been accomplished or are in different stages of progress (read the Fact Sheets). While there is more improvement studied and on drawing boards, the projects are looking for the essential funding. Yes, it all costs money and different stake-holders are outdoing each other – standing “for” as well as “against”. As customary, lobbying is in overdrive.
Given both the cloudy current economic situation and with the current Florida legislators not very environmentally inclined, perhaps it is time to regroup and reflect – what should be the next priorities and steps toward effective Everglades restoration that, as almost everybody in general agrees upon, is needed ?
Let’s take a summarizing and appropriately far-looking and fundamental overview. An Everglades restoration reminder and a wish-list, if you will. Proceeding from North to South, as the Everglades waters (used to) flow, let’s summarize the main tasks as experts tend to see them:
(1) Northern LO Watershed - focus mainly on pollution preventative measures:
Watersheds of LO are mainly
agricultural and cattle grazing lands
● Introduce and promote the nutrient reduction credit trading.
● Regulate and restrict the uncontrolled urban sprawl and excessive development.
● Enforce effective urban sewage treatment, minimizing the nutrient discharges.
(2) Lake Okeechobee – the liquid heart of Florida is seriously impaired and cleaning up its watershed (above) will certainly help. However, there are tons of “legacy phosphorus” in its mud deposits that should be gradually “removed”. At present, the question of devising the best way of doing so remains outstanding.
Lake Okeechobee is the largest Florida freshwater reservoir. Its primary function could be seen as such, despite the Lake’s ecological function that might have to be only considered as secondary. Correspondingly, as the crucial flood prevention measure –
● the overhaul and reinforcements of Hoover Dike around the Lake is mandatory.
Florida unusual and extreme seasonal rain variations call for both reliable flood protection and extraordinary water storage capacity.
● Eco-regulation of optimal Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers water releases.
(3) EAA – There are 3 major problems there caused by intensive agricultural activities:
(a) soil exhaustion that is compensated for by current excessive use of fertilizers;
(b) runoff of major portion of fertilizers applied that pollutes the downstream waters and overloads the existing STAs;
(c) soil oxidation and subsidence to the underlying rock in large areas (more than 3 feet subsidence).
Correspondingly, multi-prong actions are required to remedy the situation:
● Introduce and enforce strict measures in the form of effective farm BMPs with teeth.
● Enforce the Florida Constitution amendment that allows for the “polluters pay” mode of clean-up
● Consolidate land holdings and allocation (“land swap”) for enlargement of existing STAs (with reservoirs – FEBs) and/or new FEB-STA construction.
● Restore and replenish the subsided soil, (using LO muds ?) increasing its levels.
(4) WCA wetlands● Provide for clean water sheet-flow south towards the ENP and Florida Bay.
● Extend the Tamiami Trail elevated bridging.
● Control water seepage in the easterly areas of South Florida.
● Take appropriate steps to minimize the salt water underground advance/penetration.
Enough ? Let’s get down to work -