One of the projects that was born from Senator Joe Negron’s led “Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” Senate Hearing of 2013 is linked to an agreement between the Florida Senate and the University of Florida Board of Trustees. The project title is a “Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.”
The project has been given $250,000, the “project period” ends March 1, 2015, and will be led by Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute. Other great minds of our state university system will also be a part of this process. (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu)
As a Florida Gator myself, Class of 1986, I am hopeful. Nonetheless, I recognize that the university is historically tied into the politics of development and agribusiness that has been part of the destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and our state.
My Grandfather Henderson was an agronomist/soil scientist, UF graduate, and teacher. He taught citrus magnet and UF Bull Gator, Ben Hill Griffin. He was very proud of this. When I was kid and my grandfather would drive me from Gainesville to Stuart, he would try to make me memorize every scientific name and genetic history of every cow we passed along the Florida Turnpike, and also tell me what quality of soil was located where the cow was standing.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a farm boy, had lived through the Great Depression and was not thinking about “preserving” this state; he was thinking about using it for the “betterment of mankind, for progress.” I, on the other hand, have lived a kinder, gentler life, and so my goal is to save the beauty and nature of the state for future generations, and I see its connection to property values. My grandfather probably figured “what good are property values if there is no food on the table?”
These ideological conflicts still exist today just in a different way. For the University of Florida and people like my grandfather, historical friendships and connections run deep and it is difficult to not be affected by such in ones ‘ judgement, even if one is a scientist…
But in my opinion, today when thinking about this “conflict, we must think more about the future….and the future of this state is inexorably tied to the health and quantity of its fresh water resources…also we must trust and support those who have been charged to complete the project.
Yes, in spite of the political intricacies, I can think of no better place for a review of “moving water south,” than the University of Florida Water Institute.
According to engineer Dr Gary Goforth, of Stuart, now independent but formerly of the South Florida Water Management District, the UF team is “highly qualified.”
He states: “I am optimistic the review team will produce an excellent report after meeting with interested members of the public if they can make recommendations that may be in conflict with existing state and federal agency positions and policies. This is often difficult for agencies that depend on continued State funding as does the University...”
Kevin Henderson, also of Stuart, (no relation to my grandfather) engineer, and long-standing estuary advocate and Rivers Coalition member says:
“I believe the folks at UF understand the issues and will have a good handle on options that will work, could work, and will not work.
So my view is- let them do it, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and read the scope below with an understanding of the political document it has to be to even get started.
What would be really useful is the Corps making clear that HHD cannot be made into a legal dam without having a very large flood discharge outlet that does not exist today.“
Me? I just want to wish Wendy Graham’s team luck, and let them know that I for one am rooting for them.
Below is a copy of the agreement between the Florida Senate and UF Board of Trustees. This is important for everyone to read.
Before I close, I can’t resist yelling out loud for all the souls of history and future generations to hear: GO GATORS!