Tag Archives: governors race

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.”


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.


The Fallout of CEPP/the 4th Seminole War of Florida and the Indian River Lagoon

The delay of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project may end up symbolically being the beginning of Florida's  4th Seminole War.
The delay of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project, may end up symbolically being the beginning of Florida’s 4th Seminole War as people fight for water to move south. (Photos public.)

I really did not want to write about the failure of the Central Everglades Planning Project, CEPP,  as I have been trying to forget about it. The whole thing is so depressing to me.  However, last night, before I went to bed, my husband said,  “Dan thinks you should write about what’s going to happen now that CEPP did not make it into the WRDA bill…” So, I had a long series of nightmares, now it’s morning, and for Dr Daniel Velinsky, I will do the right thing, and try to write this piece.

First some history.

It is well documented that Florida’s three Seminole Wars were the longest, bloodiest, and most costly of all the Indian wars fought by the United States, fought on and off between 1814 and 1858.  In the end, no treaty was signed and the few hundred remaining native peoples hid in their well known Everglades swamp to resurrect themselves as today’s Seminole,  Miccosukee, and unaffiliated Independent Seminole Tribes.


They never surrendered and today their successful 1980s/1990s law suit against the Federal Government and the State of Florida requiring the polluting of Everglades Agricultural Area run off water onto their lands, to be reduced from sometimes over 300 to 10 parts per billion/phosphorus, in my opinion, is a key reason, along with its tartiness and other issues, why CEPP was not included in the Water Resources Development Act, WRDA, bill by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

I can hear the D.C. ACOE  now: “Even if we had the designated land, the mass of water could not be sent south—it’s too dirty. We need so much more land to clean it.  So we’ll build all this structure but we won’t be able to send but a dribble of water south…Florida has to lessen the water quality requirements or …”

Well first of all, I say “kudos” to the Seminole  and Miccosucci for holding the state responsible for cleaning up its water, even if it is an”impossible” number to achieve under present circumstances. I’d say in the karma department, “we had it coming.”

So now what do we do? Well in my opinion a type of war is going to start, and I liken the people of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon to the “Fourth Indian War Warriors.” We will not surrender.

The failure of CEPP to pass will historically be the beginning of this war. And like the Indians of the 1880s, we were indirectly lied to, and part of it was our fault for believing what we were told, knowing the facts of history.

We all watched and participated along with the South Florida Water Management District and the Jacksonville Army Corp of Engineers for three years, putting full concentration of resources and creativity– forcing dedicated staff from both agencies to produce a document, CEPP,  that the US Army Corp of Engineers more than likely knew, would never make it. So now,  “they” want us to continue rallying for another two years for next WRDA bill. “Oh sorry maybe it will be seven years….”

I don’t think so.

Guess what? The people are tired of waiting. They put their money on the state and federal governments’ horse, and our horse wasn’t  even allowed to run.

Do you feel the chain pulling and digging into your neck? I do.

This tactic is not new, and honestly I think it is simply part of a dysfunctional federal and state government. Let’s look back.

In the 1990s governor Lawton Childs had the state halt the famous water quality law suit and actually “laid down his sword” in a courtroom-how courageous, but look where we are now; in the mid 2000s Charlie Christ’s “Sugar Land Deal” was downsized due to the Economic Crisis of 2008 and other politics; before that, Jeb Bush started the “Acceler8 Program to quickly complete eight of over 60 Central Everglades Restoration Plan’s (CERP) projects. The SFWMD, functioning under the governor, worked diligently like they did recently for CEPP–the eight projects  were not completed; and since 2011/12, under the Rick Scott administration, the entire focus was on CEPP, which also would have bundled  some of the CERP projects to begin “moving faster” and to “move the water south.” After years of laser like dedication, for now, the project is “dead.”

Florida has water quality and quantity issues brewing like a hurricane, and our Indian River Lagoon area will be the eye in November of 2014, as former governor Charlie Christ runs against Governor Rick Scott. The race would have been messy anyway, but now it is going to be war as the different sides  configure how to “send the water south” with out CEPP.  Start thinking about how you want to send the water south or stored, and “never, never, never give up.”


History Florida WQ Law Suit:(http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/fl/08_14_8_epa_losing_water_quality_cases.pdf)

Seminole Tribe: (http://www.semtribe.com)

Miccosukee Tribe: (http://www.miccosukeetribe.com)