I likened it to watching someone step on a roach. It was terrible. With the a motion from Kevin Powers, the South Florida Water Management District just squashed it.
Last Thursday, on May 14th 2015, the SFWMD, with absolutely no mercy at all, killed the option land contract to purchase 46,800 acres from US Sugar Corporation. This option land purchase has been the greatest hope for local environmentalists, the River Warriors, the Everglades Foundation, and many others to lay ground for a future that would not discharge so much fresh, polluted, water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The hope was that a reservoir could be built on this land to then store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades.
Well, it’s dead. No use bemoaning the situation. Let’s brush ourselves off and keep going. Even though the SFWMD killed this option, there are still others.
The best thing to do now is to “read up” and get smart about at what is “on the books” because a reservoir in the EAA is on the books as part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan known as CERP. It may not be as good as the 46,800 acre option, but it would be something… And we must enlist Senator Joe Negron as he is our only Indian guide. ((http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)) To include a land purchase for this reservoir, whether it be in the Everglades Agricultural Area or not, through bonding of Amendment 1 monies is our war plan.
Negron’s idea is to crank up talking to scientists and experts on the best property currently available to build a reservoir. We need about 50 to 60,000 acres, as set out in the 2000 CERP…
The dysfunctional 2015 Florida State Legislature is not a great horse to bet on, but we have no other choice. Let’s saddle up and move on.
Under tremendous political pressure, and intense time limitations, the Water Institute of the University of Florida (http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu) has created a professional, “arm’s-length” document, reporting on “Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades.”
Kudos to Senator Joe Negron and the Senate Committee who put forth the $250,000 for this study after the “Lost Summer” of 2013! Write him, thank him and ask him to support the EAA option land purchase! (http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)
Kudos to the people who demanded something be done to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon that suffers from terrible “local runoff” and then is periodically murdered by the tremendous releases from Lake Okeechobee that are a tipping point, causing the river to go into a toxic state as we saw in 1998, 2004-5, and most recently in 2013!
The UF Water Institute’s report came out yesterday. The study clearly states, as pointed out to me by Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net) who is reviewing the document:
” Achieving substantial reduction in lake-triggered discharges to the estuaries and substantial improvement toward the dry season Everglades demand target will require additional land between the lake and the EAA, e.g., the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option, lands from other willing sellers, and/or use of existing state-owned land (e.g., Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)).”
Friend, environmental icon, and 20 year county commissioner, Maggy Hurchalla, pointed out this section as we tried to review the 143 page document in quick time:
p102: “Currently, the state of Florida has an option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the EAA(Figure V-8). The option is set to expire in October 2015. Thus, the state has a limited window of opportunity to purchase this land at market prices. Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the EAA,the state should consider this time-limited option. The particular 46,000 acres at issue may be useful for additional storage and treatment or may serve as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests in the area if land in different locations are needed.”
…. the Technical Review Team concludes that relief to the estuaries and the ability to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished using existing technology. The solution is enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake. Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals. The path forward requires significant long-term investment in the infrastructure of the South Florida hydrologic system. Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the Estuaries and Move More Water South from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades To reduce damage to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries freshwater inflow and nutrient loads from both Lake Okeechobee and the local basins must be reduced. On average, 70-80% of the freshwater discharge and 65-80% of the nutrient load to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries originates in the local basins, with the remaining balance contributed from Lake Okeechobee. Previous CERP, NEEPP and ROG planning exercises have all identified that providing large volumes of regional storage is essential to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries. The most recent estimates of required storage include: 400,000 acre-feet of water storage within the Caloosahatchee River watershed, 200,000 acre-feet of water storage within the St. Lucie River watershed, and approximately 1,000,000 acre-ft of water storage distributed north and south of Lake Okeechobee. …..
Many opinions will evolve out of this UF document. Fingers will be pointed….
Nonetheless, if we are adaptable, determined, and consistent, like a gator in the swamp, we will be able to “ride” this UF study to achieve the purchase of option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
We must also “ride” the UF report for funding projects to clean up and divert area runoff from area canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44 that are also an ongoing man-made pollution disaster to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Together, Lake O and our area canals are killing our rivers and Lake O is always the “tipping point…”
Keep your eye on the prize, don’t take “no” for an answer…
Options to Reduce High Volume Freshwater Flows to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades
An Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Institute
*This Everglades Trust website allows you to find and contact your elected officials and write them about purchasing option lands in the EAA and saving the everglades; see here for information: (http://www.evergladestrust.org)
I must begin by saying that my recent blogging has been somewhat “uncomfortable” for me, as I was raised to act like a “lady,” and recently I feel more like a fighter pilot.
Politics sometimes makes “being a lady” a difficult goal, so I do apologize to anyone, such as my mother, who may be offended by my relentless “fighting” blog posts recently regarding the importance of state purchase of the 46,800 acres of option lands for sale by US Sugar Corporation.
As a warning, mom and others, today’s blog post will be more of the same, as a “type of war” has started.
—-A war of information. A war to influence our governor and legislature….a war over how to use Florida’s Amendment 1 monies….a war to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee, Everglades, and drinking water for South Florida, or just to keep the “status-quo…”
In order to explain this, I will share what has happened over the past few days…
On Wednesday, February 18th, Eric Draper, the Executive Director of Florida Audubon, (http://fl.audubon.org) was quoted in a “Sunshine State News” piece as saying (regarding the flow way south) “—it will never happen, it’s pie in the sky…”
Knowing Mr Draper and knowing that words in news articles often are twisted for effect, I wrote Audubon immediately asking about the situation. Mr Draper replied with an apologetic email and a letter he had written that day to Governor Scott in support of purchasing the option lands. See below:
In my effort to promote the idea of an EAA reservoir and distinguish that from the hard to explain Plan Six I unwittingly played into a storyline not my own. I found the story confusing and somewhat unrelated to what I was trying to say. Nevertheless, I am sure that folks are disappointed to hear me discount the flow way and that was not my word or intent. As an 30 year advocate for the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee I feel strongly about moving water south. Audubon will continue to work on getting the US Sugar land purchased for the purpose of establishing a CERP reservoir.
I apologize to both of you and to all the supporters of the idea of Plan Six and a flow way.
Eric Draper Executive Director
I believe Mr Draper did not mean for his words as they were reported. Speaking with the media is sometimes tricky business and anyone who speaks to them long enough will feel that he or she has been “misquoted.” Mr Draper’s work is one of the main reasons Amendment 1 passed in the first place, and you can see by his letter above to Governor Scott he supports buying the option lands.
OK, one bomb down…Two to go….
So then on Saturday, Feb 21st, I get an email from my Florida League of Cities colleague, Teresa Heitman, who is a councilwoman for the City of Naples. She simply forwarded me an email she had received from US Sugar Corporation. You can click on the image below to read it, but basically it says: “Send the Water South?” “Not so fast”…and gives three articles supporting why the option lands should not be purchased, why the “enviros”are nuts, and one of the articles quoted is the one quoting Eric Draper that I mentioned above!
As an aside, and as an elected official myself, I must say that I find it in poor taste that this email was sent from US Sugar Corporation directly to an elected official. Maybe Council- woman Heitman is on a “mailing list” for US Sugar, but this seems doubtful to me.
How many other elected officials were sent this email and why is US Sugar sending it out?
On the other hand, it kind of made me feel good when I saw it–like they were threatened by the grassroots river movement here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades in general. Kind of ironic to think that US Sugar would need to influence elected officials with direct emails; seems like they already do that with everything else they do like spending millions of dollars on lobbying politicians…….sending this “tiny” email makes them look kind of desperate….
—obviously we have more influence than we realize….
Also, the thought of a “David and Goliath” fight is very appealing to me, as in that story, as we all know, David wins…
Below is part of the email from US Sugar, just so you can see it. I also made sure the hyperlinks worked in case you want to read the “email bombs” being sent out.
Buy the land? Send the water south? Not so fast…
In case you missed it, please find below highlights from a few recent articles discussing the constraints, risks and concerns with purchasing the U.S. Sugar land option to create a flow-way to send water south to the Everglades:
You can access the articles in their entirety by clicking on the hyperlinked titles. 1. Officials to enviros: Buying land, moving lake water south has risks
By: Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post February 12, 2015
The 60-second TV spot starts airing 2-22-15 and sponsored by the Everglades Trust (http://www.evergladestrust.org) is running on cable and broadcast stations in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee.
The scrip reads:
“Decades of uncontrolled pollution in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee is endangering our health, killing our wildlife and threatening our drinking water.
Four years ago, the sugar industry signed a binding written contract to sell us land to clean up their pollution, and for a reservoir to protect our water.
It’s been called the most critical piece of land ever for Everglades restoration. Last November, 75% of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution.
Now, it’s up to the Governor to back it and the Legislature to fund it.
Call the Governor, call your legislator, and tell them to buy the land. Build the reservoir. And save Florida’s drinking water. Now, while there’s still time.
So I think that this is a war of sorts. Between US Sugar and the Everglades Trust. For most readers of my blog interested in saving the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, our ideology is that of the Everglades Trust….
In closing, when you have some extra time, please write to Governor Scott below, and sign the petition above, asking to support the purchase of option lands. And feel good about the influence you are already having in the war to save the Indian River Lagoon!
I come from a historic agricultural background, on both sides of my family, so I feel like I can criticize it.
My Thurlow great-great grandparents grew thistles in New York, and my Henderson great-grandparents, from a long farming line, settled in Madison, Florida. My grandfather, Russell Henderson, was a well-respected soli-scientist and taught in the Agriculture Department at the University of Florida, even getting a mural painted including him by citrus legend, Ben Hill Griffen…
I ate boiled peanuts while learning about different crops and cows during my summer vacations as a kid while visiting Gainesville. I understand the connection and importance of agriculture to the success of both my family and to our country.
Nonetheless, as a product of the Florida Indian River Lagoon region since 1965, I have chosen to focus my energies on “natural preservation.” This is often at odds with agriculture and development’s values.
Again, I respect agriculture; it feeds us….
I just think some aspects of the industry have gone “too far,” and are too coddled by our state, especially regarding the pollution and water resources destruction caused by their now “agribusiness giant-ness.”
Nonetheless, agriculture has a stronghold on our state government beyond comprehension, beyond tourism, or “quality of life or quality for tourists.” Agriculture/sugar brags that agriculture “feeds the world,” not just the state. I guess this is good, but why should my state and local area be “raped and polluted” to feed the world?
No where is this more evident than the in Everglades Agricultural Area where the sugar industry “reigns king.” As of late, the sugar industry is not supporting the purchase of option lands that are FOR SALE. They have been able to convince the governor, and so far the state legislature, that is it unwise to purchase these option lands to start creating an EAA reservoir to store, clean and convey more water south to the Everglades to begin the journey of saving the Everglades as well as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and also the Caloosahatchee River. These estuaries and the people and businesses that live along them sufferer from the 1920 redirection of Lake Okeechobee’s waters east and west for the creation of the Everglades Agricultural Area or EAA.
Honestly, I am not sure why sugar is so against this land purchase. Their land is for sale! Is because they are making money now and not going broke as they were in 2008 when the option lands deal was legally arranged? Or they do just want to hold out for more money on those lands in the future? In any case, they are doing everything they can NOT to allow the option land purchase to occur as part of the 2015 legislatures’ ability to use Amendment 1 monies while the “environmentalist” community begs….and lake O is getting higher every day.
We all know that the sugar industry gives millions of dollars a years to government officials to secure their interests. This is important, but it is not most important.
What is important for all of us to realize is that the influence of the sugar industry and agriculture in general is much deeper than money. It is blood. And this why our fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon requires new blood. A revolution of sorts. Don’t get scared by these words. Nothing is more “American.”
Let’s study the history of sugar and the state of Florida’s pact:
In a 1911 Washington DC publication, of the 62nd Congress, document no. 89, entitled:
“Everglades of Florida.” —-Acts, Reports, and other Papers, State and National, Relating to the Everglades of the State of Florida and Their Reclamation,”
—we see that even in is the first documents of the publication produced in 1845, the year of Florida’s statehood, there was a resolution “recommending the adoption of measures for reclaiming the Everglade land in that state.” (By 1847 in a letter from Washington DC’s Honorable James D Westcott, Jr. to the Secretary of the Treasury and shared with the Florida legislature….)
It reads in response to the idea of draining the lands south of Lake Okeechobee…
“What would be the value of the now subaqueous lands, reclaimed by such work, I will not pretend to say….all of those (military men) who have resided in this vicinity, and who have repeatedly informed my that many of these lands would be the best sugar and richest lands in the United States.”
This publication reprinted as SOUTH FLORIDA IN PERIL, can be purchased at Florida Classic Library in Hobe Sound. (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com) It documents the early days of the 130 year tie between the federal, and state government as they all organized together with the agriculture industry to create the state of Florida, a sugar haven, that reached its true peak in the 1960 and 1970, with the exclusion of Cuba’s goods…
Here we are today, almost fifty years later and Cuba is perhaps reopening…and our state water issues in south Florida are out of control.
Anyway, the book goes on for 203 pages documenting the state and federal governments’ support for agriculture in the Everglades and “how rich they would all become…”
That they were successful, I am happy; however; they OVER DID it, over-drained it, and refuse to see their own destruction, and their unfair advantage.
Blood is thicker than water….but “blood can’t be blood” without water…time for a change.
The number one thing I learned as a teacher was that I had to do my best, at all times, and with all students, to be “fair.” This required calling students out when they did something inappropriate, as well as praising them when they did something great.
Two days ago, our friend, Dr Gary Goforth, (http://garygoforth.net),”architect of the STAs,” reported that so far, the SFWMD has sent more water south from Lake Okeechobee, through the Storm Water Treatment Areas, (STAs) than even in 2014, which itself was a “record year.”
This will help save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon….
You may recall prior to 2014, comparatively “little” water had been “sent south,” for a long, long time…meaning more of it went into our estuaries.
Below, are summary notes from Dr Goforth that I have edited for simplicity of communication:
Attached is a snapshot of the current flows into and out of Lake Okeechobee for WATER YEARS 2015 (May 1 – January 2015).
The District continues to send large volumes of Lake water to the STAs and WCAs: over 416,000 acre feet (136 billion gallons)! which coincidently is the volume of the Lake releases made to the St. Lucie River/Estuary in 2013. During the 3 months of the current dry season (November-January) they have sent over 207,000 AF to the STAs. They are on pace to greatly exceed my target of 250,000 acre feet during the dry season! And they said it couldn’t be done. On a side note – STA performance continues to improve in association with the additional flows.
“Water Year” 2015 now is in the record books for the most Lake water ever sent to the STAs
Also, “Water Year 2015” now is in the record books for the most Lake water ever sent to the Everglades since 1994.
The obvious bad news is that Lake discharges continue to the St. Lucie River/Estuary – at a rate that has practically no effect on reducing the stage of lake Okeechobee (less than 0.1 of an inch per day – less than evaporation).
*Jacqui-please feel free to share this information, with the caveat: “Estimates are preliminary and subject to revision.”
Thank you Dr Goforth for sharing the above good news and kudos to the SFWMD!
Now as a side bar—I don’t want to confuse anybody, but I do want to share, in case you have noticed too, that sometimes these charts are reported in WATER YEARS and sometimes in ANNUAL YEARS.
For instance, the chart below that I shared in a blog reporting 2014 flows last year shows the report in CALENDAR YEARS. Dr Goforth’s chart above is in WATER YEARS and that is why 2014 in his above chart does not look as high as one would expect it to–as 2014 was also a “record year,” (above 250,000 acre feet sent south.)
So what’s the difference? A WATER YEAR is May through April over a two-year period; whereas a CALENDAR YEAR is just that, a calendar year….
I guess the scientists people usually use WATER YEARS…
But sometimes it gets reported in CALENDAR YEARS. Sometimes they don’t specify….Ag!
So anyway, it can be is confusing interpreting these charts. I wanted to make sure that everybody knew both: that in 2014 the SFWMD district sent over 270,000 acre feet south; and in 2015 they have already sent 416,000 acres south! Two great record years after the public outcry following the “lost summer” of 2013.
Although all this water going south is fantastic news, it must be noted as Dr Goforth did, that this is not enough water to “save” the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This is why the river movement is advocating for the state legislature to purchase option lands south of Lake Okeechobee in order to create an eventual reservoir to store, clean, and convey –closer to the 150,000 acre feet that is necessary to go south so as not to destroy the estuaries…..
But today we focusing on praising good work….
Thank you to all of the hard-working members of the SFWMD who try to balance politics with science, a very difficult classroom! We recognize your good work; we commend you, we thank you. Please keep raising that bar!
Today, I am going to try to simplify and share the idea of an “EAA reservoir.” You probably have been hearing a lot about this, but you may not know how it fits into a an option lands purchase and the “sending more water south” concept that will help save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the Everglades.
This is not fully understood by me either, so I contacted Dr Thomas Van Lent of the Everglades Foundation; he sent me some information that today will share with you.
For me all of this is part of a “flow way concept,” though some may disagree.
LAND PURCHASE: In order to do anything that will actually take a significant amount of water off of Lake Okeechobee, so the ACOE doesn’t have to discharge to the SLR/IRL and Caloosahatchee, there needs to be land to “store, clean and convey that water south.”
Because over the past 95 years, the EAA took up all the southerly land to create their Everglades Agricultural Area, 700,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee, we are “forced” to purchase lands in the EAA to move any water south. Thankfully, land is for sale; although US Sugar rather not sell it. (Long drama….let’s just leave it at that–the land is for sale; I believe the state should buy it with Amendment 1 monies and /or “bond it.”) This Option 1, the brown lands below, runs out in October of 2015.
So after getting the land purchase necessity out-of-the-way, let’s look at Dr Van Lent’s write-up and slides:
Jacqui, I’ve attached a graphic that I hope will help explain.
I think everyone can agree that the best solution to the estuaries’ problems is to send more water south. But the major limitation to doing that today is (1) the water is polluted and would irreparably damage the Everglades and (2) the dams in the Everglades prevent you from getting the water out, so adding more water would drown tree islands and other habitats. So, the bottleneck to flow is actually further south, in the Everglades, and not in the EAA.
The solution is to clean the water and then remove the dams. But if you just pull out the dams so water flows when it’s wet, then the Everglades will dry up and burn when it’s dry. So an essential step to pulling out the dams is to add water supply reservoir so that you can keep the Everglades wet during droughts.
The Central Everglades Plan started to open up the dams in the Everglades, but was limited because it did not build any storage. With storage, you can open up the Everglades even more, sending more water south.—–Dr Van Lent
—-I have to say I don’t know much about the dams in the Everglades, but that’s OK, let’s move on….
(Refer to above slide.) Discharges to the Everglades are limited because the STA’s (Storm Water Treatment Areas) (1.) are too small and cannot clean enough water. Also, dams in the Everglades (2) limit the flow through the Everglades. This leaves the St Lucie/S IRL and Caloosahatchee (3) as the primary outlets for Lake Okeechobee.
(Refer to above slide.) The “*Restoration Strategies” expansions to STAs (1) and water quality features in *CEPP (2) expanded the ability to treat Lake water going to the Everglades. Moreover, CEPP and Tamiami Trail (3) bridging opened up the Everglades to take more flow, improving conditions in the national park and Florida Bay. The means that significantly less water could be discharged to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries (4). The EAA Reservoir (5) supplies water during dry periods so the Everglades remains set seven when the dams are removed. That is why a reservoir is critical to sending water south; it allows the dams in the Everglades to be breached.
Thank you Dr Van Lent!
In case you are wondering, I have added the following below, to explain Dr Van Lent’s slide explanation.
*CEPP the Central Everglades Planning Project of part of CERP (the Central Everglades Restoration Project.)(http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/FactSheets/CEPP_FS_September2013_508.pdf) This is a project that was “fast tracked,” by the ACOE and SFWMD. Congressman Patrick Murphy helped a lot with this. It was not taken on as part of WRDA the Water Resources Development Act that funds projects so it is still on the burner really and will have to be approved the next time a WRDA bill is passed by the US Congress. So right now it is NOT happening but hopefully will in the future…
In closing, I hope these slides, and the explanation from Dr Van Lent helped you in your journey of understand all this. I believe all these things are part of a greater whole. I am very appreciative to Dr Van Lent for sending the slides. What an honor to correspond with him.
When one looks at such, one certainly realizes we are planning for a far off future…and nothing is guaranteed. This can be discouraging, but don’t let it be!
It is our responsibility to the children of the future.
The first time I ever saw Lake Okeechobee, I was fourteen years old. I was visiting River Ranch, at Yeehaw Junction, with my friend Vicki Whipkey, and her family. Jay Brock, who was by far the smartest of any of us kids there that summer vacation, and my first real “crush,” recommended we go see sunset on the lake. I don’t remember how we got there, but we did.
Once we arrived, the sun was starting to fall. The horizon was miles away, and the water went as far as the eye could see in all directions.
“It looks like the ocean, not a lake.” I said, taken aback.
Jay, spouted off some statistics saying something like: “The lake is about 730 square miles; 35 miles long; and up to 25 miles wide. It is the largest lake entirely within a state in the United States of America; it is half the size of Rhode Island.”
I wondered how he know all this stuff, and we sat there watching the sunset.
I wondered if I would have my first kiss at this beautiful, but almost eerie, “ocean of a lake.” It never happened…
I never really forgot Jay Brock, and we remained friends throughout our lives.
I never, never, ever, forgot Lake Okeechobee.
Years later, an adult, I started going back to Lake Okeechobee in my forties when I started to become concerned about the releases from the lake into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. I wanted and needed to see it through “adult eyes.”
—-I have flown over the lake with my husband and his friends many times; I have entered the lake by boat; and I have driven 30 miles west with my niece Evie, on Highway 76, until arriving at Port Mayaca. No matter how I have gotten there, every time I see the lake, I have the same experience I had at fourteen years old, I am completely “overcome by its size.”
Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott pledged Amendment 1 monies to the Everglades, but not for buying the US Sugar option 1 lands south of Lake Okeechobee,
I am thankful for this, but disappointed; I am thankful Governor Scott has the Everglades and local projects in his budget recommendation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Nonetheless, I recognize that our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon problems will never be fixed until there is land and eventually a reservoir south of the lake to store, clean, and convey water south— a flow way of sorts to move that water south….
THERE IS TOO MUCH WATER. SOME MUST GO SOUTH. WE NEED A COMBINATION AND THE OPTION 1 LANDS EXPIRE THIS OCTOBER, 2015.
Let’s think a minute. Let’s review, and contemplate about what we can still do to politely convince our governor and legislature. There is still time.
Florida Oceanographic Society quotes 1.5 or so million acres feet coming out the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee in 2013, (not our worst of years), with approximately 300,000 acre feet being released to the St Lucie/IRL and 660,000 acre feet being releases to the Caloosahatchee. The rest going to sustain the Everglades Agriculture Area south of the lake, and a smaller portion yet trickling to the dying Everglades.
So even if the Kissimmee holds more water, it won’t hold enough water. The water is meant to go south….
I wonder if the governor or Adam Putnam have any grandchildren who might be able to explain this? 🙂
Remember that the Governor’s recommendation is just that. It must be approved by the legislature. We still have time to make our voices heard and to ask for one thing to be added. ——one thing that would really help hold the tremendous and over-pouring waters of Lake Okeechobee, —-a lands purchase and a reservoir south of the lake. Then the senate, the house and the governor can duke it out….it’s not over yet!
What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, never, never, —-never give up!” 🙂
Yesterday, reviewing Everglades/IRL history, we learned about Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) that clean Lake Okeechobee water going to the Everglades; today we will take a look at their “older brother and sisters” the Water Conservation Areas ( WCAs),changed but remaining parts of the Everglades, that deliver water to Everglades National Park, and are protected as part of the Everglades themselves…
The Water Conservation Areas, the three large red images in the photo at the beginning of this blog post, comprise 900,000 acres. For reference, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is 700,000 acres. As we learned yesterday, the STAs were built in 1994; the WCAs are were developed/created in 1948.
According to United States Geological Survey, (USGA,) the WCAs were developed as part of the (1948) Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project.
It followed tremendous flooding in 1947, and inspired the widening and deepening of the C-44, (St Lucie) C-43, (Caloosahatchee) canals, the building of C-23, C-24, C-25 in Martin and St Lucie Counties, as well as many, many, other projects around and south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp of Engineers did what they were charged to by the state and the US Congress, and as usual they did it “too well,” over draining the state with the continued destruction of the northern estuaries. On top of that, today we waste on average 1.7 billion gallons of valuable water to tide every day. (Florida Oceanographic Society, Mark Perry.)
So anyway, the WCAs were also “created”during this time; they on the other hand are a good thing…
According to the USGA web site:
They were designed for use as storage to prevent flooding, to irrigate agriculture and recharge well fields and as input for agricultural and urban runoff.
They are also recharged by rain, but leeves were built around the WCAs so water flows into them and then slowly streams into Everglades National Park by the hand of man, not Nature…
The USGA also states that:
Historic flow of water and the quality of water through the WCAs have been greatly reduced. These conditions have resulted in decreased wading bird populations due to shortened hydroperiods, invasion of the native environments by exotic plants and fish, and conversions of sawgrass communities to cattail/sawgrass mixes.
Recently, Martin County’s Dr Gary Goforth (http://garygoforth.net), formerly of the SFWMD, and one of the primary creators of the STAs, has been revealing publicly at River Coalition meetings and SFWMD meetings that although more STAs have been built since 1994 to bring and clean water into the WCA/Everglades, less water is actually getting there!
2014 was the first year in ten years that a substantial amount of water (over 250,000 Acre Feet) was sent south. (See chart below.) This is odd isn’t it? And until last year, most of that water was EAA water used to water their crops, not “overflow” Lake Okeechobee water.
I believe it was the public outcry that inspired the ACOE and SFWMD to send more water south last year through the STAs and WCAs.. .The problem lies with the SFWMD and ACOE mostly because in 1994, by law, phosphorus was limited into Everglades National Park. This is understandable, but adds to our St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon continued destruction.
Even with all of the STAs and the WCAs nature cannot take up all of the man-made phosphorus and nitrogen from farming and development. So what can we do?
We must return more of the EAA land to nature or at least “man-made” nature…we must purchase the option lands….
After the horrendous “Lost Summer of 2013,” and public outcry, more water has been sent south to the Everglades by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District in 2014/15 than in the past ten years. But we are still drowning…
With this in mind, the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference (http://evergladescoalition.org) was a whirlwind; its theme “Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades.”
Let’s begin, by looking at some water/land maps and think about the big picture.
The image below is a “simplified chronology of water management changes,” and shows the canals and structures that waste water to the ocean destroying our precious estuaries. This map was shared by Robert Johnson during the coalition meeting. It made a big impression on me, because it gives historical perspective, is simple, and is clear.
The red lines are canals that drain lake Okeechobee. We know them well: the Caloosahatchee (C-43); the Miami: the North New River: the Hillsboro: the West Palm Beach; and our own St Lucie (C-44). The grey shows the Herbert Hoover Dike built around Lake Okeechobee in the 1930s after the terrible hurricanes of the late 1920s; the Eastern Protective Levee is also in grey, on the far right, and basically is like a giant underground wall between the Everglades and eastern coastal development; the Everglades Agricultural Area Levee System, which I think is the grey line depicting a structure built south and almost around the Everglades Agricultural area; the Water Conservation Area Levees (WCAs-areas where water slowly travels south after being cleaned in Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) above them) are the grey lines around the WCAs; and last on this chart, the South Dade Conveyance System…
There are other canals as well. Thousands of miles of them….
These canals make our lives a living hell along the Indian River Lagoon, and must be re-plumed, but we must note that they also have allowed South Florida to rise above the poverty of our ancestors, and to develop some of the world’s most “productive” sugar and vegetable farms. Too bad they had to build their riches south of Lake Okeechobee blocking the flow of the lake! Also, much of this drainage system has allowed development of the east coast of south Florida, inside the Everglades’ boundary which is in yellow on the map above and red below.
The red line, shows were development has “crept into the Everglades.” This is obviously a problem for sending water south. Therefore, whatever is created to “send more water south,” must be created so as to avoid destroying lives or property.
So narrowing this down to “our” needs, how does one build a way to send more water south? And aren’t we already doing that? Let’s look at the projects being built first before we conclude our goals for more storage.
There are many projects on the books to help with sending water south: some include CERP (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx) and CEPP…(http://www.evergladesplan.org/docs/fs_cepp_jan_2013.pdf), in fact parts of the Tamiami Trail are being raised right now, but according to many experts at the coalition, one thing is missing, enormous amounts of LAND. Land would help these projects come into being. There must be land to hold some of the tremendous amounts of water, and to clean it. Also realistically, the above projects will take generations to complete. Land purchase or no land purchase.
One thing is for sure, more land south of the lake would help the situation tremendously. As even a five year old can see, lack of lands south of the lake is the true disconnect. But where is there that much land and what are our options?
Below is a map of “Option 1,” and “Option 2”, lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, lands that US Sugar agreed to sell in 2008. These lands remain for sale.
Perhaps US Sugar rather not sell these lands anymore. In 2008 they were going broke, but today, ironically after an infusion of cash from the South Florida Water Management District that was given to buy the paired down 26,800 acres purchased, and since the economy has improved since, US Sugar is thriving again.
But a “contract is a contract,” and thus there remains a contract allowing for the state of Florida to buy the option lands.
Would purchasing these slow everyone down even more, taking moneys and energy away from other projects?
Hmmmm? Maybe, but according to some very seasoned River/Everglades Warriors, it is worth it.
At the Everglades Coalition meeting Nathaniel Reed, Maggie Hurchalla, Mary Barely, former governor Bob Graham, and Mark Perry gave the group a “call to action” to purchase these option lands. It is a lofty goal and one that would change the game forever.
But there is not much time, and the legislature is in committee meetings “now.” (January through Feburary) and convenes (starts) March 3, 2015, and then ends in May! A rabbit race!
There is not a second to spare.
So long story short, there may be options as far a purchasing the sugar lands, but there is no option when it comes to advocating for such. Should this be your goal, you must start today! Start writing and calling below and thank you for being a part of history!
Do you remember the historic Everglades restoration plan entitled the “Reviving the River of Grass?” In all honesty, “I do, but I don’t,” as I was just jumping into the boiling pot of small town politics at this time having run for my Sewall’s Point commission seat in 2008.
From what I recall, this was an amazing time, in that it appeared possible for the state of Florida to purchase lands south and around Lake Okeechobee so that overflow waters could flow south of the lake and thus not cause such incredible destruction to the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatcee estuaries.
The short version of this deal and how it changed is as follows:
2008: included 180,000 acres for 1.34 billion; 2009: included 73,000 acres for 536 million with option for remainder; 2010: 26,800 acres was bought for 194 million in cash, with option/s to purchase remaining 153,200 acres.
The clock is still ticking on these option lands and although it is not on the state’s agenda to buy these lands at this time, the recent sector lands’ land use change/s proposal has brought the US Sugar Lands Option and Everglades Restoration back into the limelight.
Even though our governor and state legislature would consider it a headache, now would be a good time for the people to push for the purchase of these lands.
Let’s learn about them and let’s begin by reviewing the history according to the deal’s biggest player, US Sugar Corporation:
“2008 through 2010 was a bittersweet time for U.S. Sugar – a company that has been farming in the Lake Okeechobee region for more than four generations. It was during this time period when the Company agreed to sell a considerable amount of its sugar cane and citrus acreage to the South Florida Water Management District for the “River of Grass” restoration project. U.S. Sugar is firm in its belief that the sale was for a good cause and is proud to be part of this historic opportunity to make extraordinary progress in Everglades restoration and restore much of the natural footprint of South Florida.”
History of the Agreement
2008 In June of 2008, an announcement was made that the South Florida Water Management District would purchase 187,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land (292 square miles or three times the size of the city of Orlando) located in environmentally strategic areas that would help restoration efforts for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and the Everglades. Under the terms of the original agreement, sufficient land would also be available for critical water storage and treatment as well as for allowing sustainable farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades to be sustainable.
Over the course of the next two years, modifications were made to the agreement. In May 2009, an amended agreement provided for the initial purchase of close to 73,000 acres for $536 million, with options to purchase the remaining 107,000 acres during the next ten years when economic and financial conditions improve.
2009 In 2009, a proposal for a scaled down acquisition was made due to the global economic crisis. Under the new contract, U.S. Sugar agreed to sell 72,500 acres of the Company’s land for approximately $530 million to the SFWMD. While the SFWMD finalized plans for the land, the Company would continue to farm the 72,500 acres through a 7-year lease that may be extended under certain circumstances. The agreement also provided the SFWMD with an option to acquire the Company’s remaining 107,500 acres for up to ten years.
2010 On August 12, 2010, a second amended agreement was reached for the South Florida Water Management District to buy 26,800 acres of land for $197 million along with the option to acquire 153,200 acres in the future.
In October 2010, the agreement for 26,800 acres was finalized and the following month the Florida Supreme Court struck down a challenge to the land acquisition stating that the purchase of U.S. Sugar lands fulfills a valid and extremely important public purpose in providing land for water storage and treatment to benefit the Everglades ecosystem and the coastal estuaries.
The next part gets confusing, and I don’t think I understand it all, but I will try to share what I think I know. This is the part about the Sugar Hill Sector Plan controversy and how it relates to the US Sugar Option and Everglades restoration.
First: So in 2010 the state purchased two huge pieces of land. This purchase, totaling 26,000 acres, is shown in black in the map above. I believe they are the piece in the upper right east corner and the piece below the lake all the way at the very bottom left.
Second: There was a 10 year option negotiated between US Sugar and the State of Florida to buy the remaining 153,000 acres. This is still out there.
Third: Another element of this option mentioned above is a “2 year non-exclusive option” to buy 46,000 acres by October 12, 2015. This requires the purchase of 46,000 acres of land and it is shown in the map above; the four arrows point to these lands. One of these arrows is pointing to the lands that are the proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan Lands in Hendry County; it is the second arrow from the left.
Confused yet? Don’t feel bad, I always am!
So it is these sector lands that the second arrow on the left side points to that are the proposed Sugar Hill development in Hendry County. These are the lands causing much controversy because they are located inside “option lands.”
Hendry County wants their land use changed for future economic development; for that I cannot blame them, this is the job of every commission. Nonetheless, the issue for the state and for those of us inundated with toxic waters from Lake Okeechobee every few years is that these lands were set aside for the “River of Grass Restoration Project.”
If the land use is changed from agricultural to residential/commercial its price will be much higher and realistically never purchased by the state of Florida for Everglades restoration.
To keep going with this, the map above shows that the possible US Sugar land purchase option lands and the Sector Plan lands of Sugar Hill. You can see in the black lined areas that there is an overlap by approximately 13,250 acres. These are the acres that are requesting land use change that are located within the option lands. So if it is only part of the lands, why the problem?
According to Mr Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic who provided the maps for this blog entry, ”
The issue here is that the subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option —46,000 acres (by October 12, 2015) must be bought in total and with changing “land use” on part of the lands, it may pose a problem for the State purchase.”
At this time many conservation groups led by the *Everglades Foundation have sent letters to Governor Scott stating stating:
“We are concerned the proposed land purchase can be jeopardized by a recent 43,000 development plan (The Sugar Hills Sector Plan…) We encourage your administration to revue the impact this Sector Plan may have on the ability of the state to move forward with the land purchase with special attention given to the fiscal impact a land use change could have on the market value of the option lands…”
Only time shall tell if development interests or Everglades restoration wins out. One way to help is to write Governor Scott at the website below. Thank you trying to learn all this and for continuing to fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
*It was pointed out to me that it was the Sierra Club, not the Everglades Foundation that sent a letter inclusive of many environmentalist groups. The Everglades Foundation did send a letter but just from their board. Thank you Chris Maroney.