Tag Archives: Charile Crist

The Problem with Sugar, Location, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Historic postcard ca. 1910 Sugar Cane. Postcard courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Historic postcard ca. 1910 “Growing Sugar Cane.” Postcard courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

The problem with “Sugar” is its location.

The war cry of the Rivers Coalition is “Move the Water South!”

Right now, this is not possible as the majority of the lands south of Lake Okeechobee are “blocked,” “taken,” “owned,” by the sugar industry. The 700,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) consist of mostly sugar cane on prime agricultural muck lands, some of “the most productive in the world.” “Cha, Ching!”

These lands that formerly allowed sheet flow from waters north of the lake to overflow and to nourish the Everglades have been drained since the early 1900s on a small level and then extensively after World War II and the Cuban Revolution. It was earlier in 1923 that Lake Okeechobee was first connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon by the Army Corp of Engineers  (ACOE) through the construction of the C-44 canal allowing massive drainage from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/IRL keeping the lands south of lake “dry.”

EAA. SFWMD map.
EAA. SFWMD map.

According to David McCally in his book The Everglades, An Environmental History published in 1999:

What drainage accomplished in the Everglades was the conversion of a derelict system to a developmental one. A developmental system results when the natural world is converted into the basic infrastructure for intensive human development. Ironically, the modern American version of development is actually rooted in extensive destruction, but since that destruction does not lay waste human achievements, it is often ignored, and the close relationship between human development and the destruction of the natural world is overlooked.”

Proposed Everglades canal system/drainage, state of Florida, 1914.
Proposed Everglades canal system/drainage, state of Florida, 1914.

Perhaps in the past this “destruction” was overlooked, but not today. A new value system has arisen. The people want the natural systems of the Northern Estuaries and the Everglades “to return.”

In my opinion, part of returning this paradise is finding a way for a third outlet from Lake Okeechobee. There are many parts to the puzzle and this is one of the major pieces.

It will be interesting with the governor’s race warming up to see what the message is on “moving water south.” The University of Florida study sponsored by Senator Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin will not be finished until Spring of 2015. Therefore the candidates  will have to speak on their own.

Rick Scott and Charlie Christ have basically kept silent on sugar/water issues so far. At some point, both, who have close ties to the sugar industry, will have to speak on the difficult position of sugar blocking the Everglades’ waters and destroying the northern estuaries.

Let’s sum it up now, before I start to sweat and need a sweet tea.

“Location, location, location….” Some things never change, but some things do, and that is up to us.

First major canals south of Lake Okeechobee, Miami and New River 1911. Drawing shows  marsh lands, "swamp," of the Everglades.
First major canals south of Lake Okeechobee, Miami and New River 1911. Drawing shows marsh lands, “swamp,” of the Everglades.