We in Martin and St Lucie Counties make up what is referred to as the “Northern Everglades.” Before the Army Corp of Engineers, (ACOE), changed the course of Lake Okeechobee’s waters in the 1920s and directed it to go east and west through canals to the estuaries, Lake Okeechobee’s water would slowly crest over the southern edge of the lake and flow south. For many, myself included, the long term goal of saving our St Lucie/IRL and Caloosahatchee estuaries includes recreating a type of “flow way, or floodway south” to Everglades National Park. The parched park needs our water just as Nature intended.
There are many challenges to this scenario but the most visual are the following.
The first is the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres located just south of the lake; the second is east coast development that has crept in over the years “into the Everglades.”
I have written before about the “seepage barrier” an underground permeable wall that runs along the east coast to keep the water out of these developed areas through pumps that send the seeping water back inside the Everglades. Crazy. If needed, the EAA also pumps its ground water and surface water off its lands to keep the level as needed for the crops. They are assisted by the SFWMD. This is a historic relationship. It is how our state was “built.”
The above photo shows the EAA dry while surrounding lands are wet.
I really do not have an answer of how to build a flow way through all this agriculture, infrastructure, and development as I am not a scientist. But I have not given up the idea. I have faith one day there will not be another choice.
What I confidently can say is that we all know water is valuable, “the new oil.” Water issues whether they be pollution or the need for water usage in a growing state demand attention and we know with the future coming we should not build anything else inside those red lines. No port, no windmill farms, no more development, no more agriculture.
If the the Florida Wildlife Commission’s map is right and Florida’s population in 2060 is around 36 million, (today it is 19 million), we are going to need more fresh water. Also if we are to save the northern estuaries and the Everglades so our children have some semblance of what the planet once was, we must redirect more water to go to where it once did, south.
Let’s draw a new line for water. A line that clearly shows we know its value not just to agriculture and development, but to the environment, and the children of the future.
1000 Friends of Florida 2060 Population: (http://archive.tallahassee.com/assets/pdf/CD52924126.PDF)
Northern Everglades DEP: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/everglades/neepp.htm)
SFWMD/Natural Systems Model: NSM-4.5 (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/nsm45.pdf)