HAVEN'T WE DONE THAT ALREADY?
As we know from the recent political season, candidates can spin facts in any way that might point them in the direction of victory. So it is with the Everglades restoration story. Have some worked to help move the process along? Yes. But long story short: it just ain't over yet.
Pieces of the Restoration process are in place, but without the rest coming together, they're just isolated islands of aid. Useless on their own. We need a connected web of efforts to be effective overall. We need more water.
Case in point, The C-111 Spreader Project. Here's the nutshell version:
- The C-111 Canal has drained the Everglades of vital water for more than 50 years.
- Scientists took note; A corrective plan was hatched: The C-111 Spreader project was born.
- The Spreader project has multiple parts. One part has been completed but depends on the rest to be effective.
- Current Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA's) provide insufficient amounts of water for the C-111 Spreader Project to succeed.
- More water from the north is essential!
Florida's original geographical function was like that of a kidney. Water made a long migration south from upstate, through a massive natural filtration system, and exited clean and nutrient-rich through a wide flood plain into the Florida Bay and surrounding estuaries.
Today, that purification system has been so badly sliced and diced by drainage canals and development, it's on the brink of collapse. The C-111 Canal has contributed to the problem.
Efforts have been made to improve water flow and water purity. Amendments to the C-111 Canal aim to more naturally redistribute water from northern Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA's).
But the system is STILL starved for clean water.
WHAT'S THAT AGAIN?
- STA's: Stormwater Treatment Areas are fabricated wetlands which hold and clean runoff before it it released back into the environment. Overseen by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), there are five such areas south of Lake Okeechobee and two in the planing stages north of the lake.
The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is prime farming land largely dominated by sugarcane production. It stands in the way of the critical water flow between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
- C-111: Also known as the Aerojet Canal, the C-111 acts as a gutter for south Florida's watershed. Dredged in the 1960's, the C-111 is the southernmost leg of a state-wide canal network, designed to dry out the land for agriculture and development, protect against flooding and store water in the Miami-Dade area.
Of course, it's not just the cities which lose water to the canal. It sucks the vitality from the Biscayne and Everglades ecosystems. And dumps the diverted flow in unnaturally high volumes where it does not belong. As its devastating environmental effects became evident, a restoration plan developed. It's called the...
C-111 Spreader Project: Plans include plugging part of the canal and rerouting water east and west through a wider floodplain, made to mimic a more natural flow of water. The project, part of the CERP plan, is ongoing under the federal watch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the non-federal sponsor, the SFWMD.
The spreader project has met its share of progress-hindering obstacles. Realizing the project's urgency, the state stepped in and completed the western portion in 2012. But an eastern half remains unfulfilled.
WHAT DOES THAT ALL MEAN?
Politicians may say they've been instrumental in getting funding for the C-111 project - which is well and good BUT researchers say that without water from the north, the purpose of the C-111 Spreader will fail.
"We need upstream water...for it to function properly. Without that, it has nothing to spread."
--- Audubon Florida
Florida Bay Forever is part of a group of advocates who call for MORE water storage south of Lake Okeechobee in the EAA, to allow MORE clean water to filter south.
This would help by:
- restoring much needed clean water flow to the Everglades and surrounding estuaries, and
- alleviating the devastating mass hydro-purges from Lake Okeechobee into Florida's mid-east and west coasts.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Join Florida Bay Forever. Advocate for the completion of the C-111 Spreader. Hold elected officials accountable for their claims of supporting Everglades and Florida Bay restoration. Already a member? Tell a friend!
Write your representatives. Tell them:
I expect to see you act in favor of land acquisition in the EAA for a clean water reservoir. Everglades restoration is Florida's #1 priority.
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Other Restoration Terms and Talking Points; Florida Bay Forever "Talk the Talk" page
South Florida Restoration Project: Spreader Canal; the Huffington Post
National Park Service/C-111
Florida's Natural Filter: The Everglades, WLRN Miami/South Florida
Effects of Canals and Levees on the Everglades, University of Florida