HOW CAN WE SAVE THE EVERGLADES?
What man has so profoundly damaged, man must restore.
In 2000, Congress passed the 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to restore, protect and preserve 18,000 square miles of land and water over 16 Florida counties. The Everglades Foundation worked with nearly two-dozen other private and public organizations to identify the essential goals in working towards fulfilling CERP’s promise. An agreement was reached with all stakeholders signing off, including sugar and agricultural interests.
At the heart of Everglades restoration is reconnecting Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades so ample water can flow south again, get cleansed and released into the Everglades and down to its terminus, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
Among these are improving and protecting water quality, quantity, providing water storage needs and restoring the historic water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
“We need to clean the water, take out the fertilizer and build marshes that are designed to clean the water as it flows south,” says Dr. Tom Van Lent, senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation.
And as called for in CERP, the Everglades needs an above ground reservoir directly south of Lake Okeechobee located in the 500,000 acres of sugar cane fields that make up the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). This Everglades reservoir is the most important project that will significantly reduce the amount of freshwater that is currently being discharged east and west.
THE EVERGLADES RESERVOIR
The critical dollars to build these project are available from both the federal government and the state of Florida. Everglades restoration is funded annually by the United States Congress via direct appropriation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior.
Everglades Trust supports the 200-plus Everglades scientists who believe that increased storage, treatment and conveyance of water south of Lake Okeechobee is essential to stop the damaging discharges to the coastal estuaries; to restore the flow of clean, fresh water to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys; to improve the health of Lake Okeechobee; and to protect the drinking water for 8 million Floridians living in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Using Amendment 1 and other funds, we must identify and secure 60,000 acres of land south of the lake without delay, before development in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) or other uncertainties condemn our waters to irrevocable destruction.
THE NEGRON PLAN
Florida’s then Senate President-elect Joe Negron announced on August 9, 2016, that he’d seek state lawmakers’ approval for a $2.4 billion plan to store water south of Lake Okeechobee.
The plan would require the acquisition of about 60,000 acres of land in an area mostly occupied by sugar growers and farmers. Conveyance and storage of massive amounts of water would be included, as well as the treatment of the polluted water before it is released, when needed, back into the Everglades.
Though we fought and were successful in getting Senate Bill 10 passed by the Senate, House and signed into law by the governor, the project was greatly reduced due to the lobbying efforts of Big Sugar.