The Everglades covered 3 million acres, extending from just south of Orlando through the Kissimee River Valley to Lake Okeechobee and south to the tip of the Florida peninsula as well as extending east and west.
A natural sheet flow of fresh water moved through this vast expanse creating a pattern of wet and dry seasons allowing myriad species to flourish with an unparalleled diversity.
With population growth, as well as pressure from agricultural and business interests, the State drained lands by diverting waters through manmade canals, pump stations, water control points and damns. Replumbing the natural sheet flow of a 3 million acre area to accommodate for population and agricultural growth, while retaining a healthy eco system could have been a modern miracle, if it had worked.
Today, the Everglades area is half of what it once was. Ultimately, State efforts to manage water flow have failed, and we see the symptoms of this failure by way of fish kills, algal blooms, dead sea grass and a deflation of once-thriving economies in affected Everglades and Florida Bay areas.
Limited public outcry has had the effect of forcing policymakers to create legislation to “fix” the hydrology of the state. Although the historic sheet flow will never be recreated, policy-makers have recognized the economic and environmental degradation caused by the hydrology, and agree that minimum efforts must be made to preserve the estuaries, rivers, and Florida Bay. However agreement on policy is only the first step in the solution to the problem.
Current legislation, CERP (Central Everglades Restoration Project) and CEPP (Central Everglades Protection Plan), are in place and with completion, promise to resuscitate the Everglades. Implementation of the projects that affect the Florida Bay is imperative to maintain the health of the Florida Keys economy.
It is clear that a total lack of political will is the cause of delay in implementation of these programs. It is also clear that our policy makers are heavily influenced by donors with deep pockets. The sugar industry has a been particularly dedicated to persuading both Democrats and Republicans to avoid buying land in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) by donating to virtually all campaigns. It is imperative that the citizens of the state of Florida demand political action today, to protect the economies, wildlife, and freshwater drinking water supply that rely on the resource.