Monday, February 21, 2022

Maggy Hurchalla: She Understood The Assignment! … by gimleteye

Maggy Hurchalla, an environmental hero in Florida, died last weekend unexpectedly. We featured Maggy on our blog over the years. We wished the mainstream press and media had, too. 

To read our work on Maggy, click here: 

Maggy Hurchalla and Eye On Miami.

Her passing is a great loss. Below you'll find a blog post from January 2015. I hope Gov. Ron DeSantis takes time read it. He is in the Governor's Mansion in no small part because Florida environmentalists loudly returned his competitor, Adam Putnam, to the private sector. 

Putnam is a wealthy farmer who owed his political life to Big Sugar. Environmentalists did not hesitate to let Florida voters know.

The reason Ron DeSantis should take the time to read about Maggy Hurchalla? 

Because the Florida legislature is in the midst of another horrible legislative effort to give Big Sugar what it wants, when it wants. That's the battle Maggy Hurchalla fought. DeSantis should think a little bit about what she stood for.

Maggy understood what scientists claimed as loudly as they could afford to (and still be employed): that the only way to fix Florida's water woes and the Everglades was to purchase lands currently used to farm sugar, the most heavily subsidized crop in the United States.

Big Sugar had other plans. It felt the pressure and reacted. In 2017, the sugar industry used legislation proposed by Senate President Joe Negron to pass a horrible bill into law. A Trojan Horse. Classic.

The Negron legislation started out as a way to address the wicked toxic algae blooms exploding on both Florida coasts because Lake Okeechobee is managed within an inch of its life to accommodate Big Sugar.

The bill that eventually passed in 2017 included other horribles; for example, stripping state agencies from using eminent domain on sugar lands. 

Maggy never gave up. She was as determined and smart and sharp and vigorous as they come. She knew the Everglades because she had lived them. She knew the Everglades because she loved them.

Maggy Hurchalla understood the assignment! God speed.


The following is the original blogpost from January 2015: "The attached OPED is by Maggy Hurchalla, Miami native and former Martin County commissioner, whose interview featured here; our first 'Achiever' of 2015. Read Maggie's OPED, next to my broadside earlier this week on Adam Putnam, Florida Secretary of Agriculture, and Big Sugar, the Great Destroyers of Florida.

Miami is as affected as any other part of the state by water policies favoring the Great Destroyers, but Miamians need to look up from their shoelaces, sandals, and Guccis and see that the water policies dramatically impacting the rest of the state also are central issues, right here.

When all the Everglades were good for, was draining
The bottom line: Big Sugar has to let go of central land holdings in order to protect the water supply affecting millions of Floridians and the dying Everglades. They will do this either as willing sellers or through eminent domain. They are strenuously resisting either.

Read my OPED on Putnam, to understand how Big Sugar is gaming the media, the system, and taxpayers, pointing in the direction of endless delay.

The Miami-Dade County Commission has been deathly silent on "sending the water south". Lots of money was made in Miami, representing Big Sugar in legal proceedings and selling farm equipment to the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The stakes are so high that continued silence by Mayor Gimenez and the county commission is no longer tolerable. The weight of the county and the Dade delegation to the legislature is considerable. It is decades beyond the time for clamoring by our elected officials in Miami, send the water south. Instead, we've had mouthpieces for the Great Destroyers like Pepe Diaz acting like experts about the need for more drainage of the Everglades. What is missing is leadership.


That's the war cry of the folks where dumping Lake Okeechobee to the east and to the west coasts is literally killing their estuaries. Comprehensive Everglades Restoration has to send the water south.

It's not hysteria. Even the Corps of Engineers agrees that without a change in water management, the St. Lucie Estuary will be irrevocably destroyed. Irrevocable is forever.

The irony is that the people who need to be shouting loudest are the residents of Miami-Dade County. They have been strangely silent.

A recent Herald editorial pointed out…
that Miami is ground zero for impacts from climate change. For whatever reason, the sea level is rising and it is rising faster. For Miami, more than any great city in America, the question is salt intrusion and the destruction of the aquifer that supplies everyone's drinking water.

What does the climate have to do with Everglades restoration and sending the water south?

Right now, with the flood control plumbing system we have in place, a very small percentage of Lake Okeechobee overflow comes south through the Everglades. Once upon a time that's where almost all of it went. Now when Okeechobee gets too full, it gets dumped on the coastal estuaries.

Climate change is bringing more than rising sea level. Large rain events and storms will increase while annual rainfall decreases. There will be more droughts and more floods and less water to keep the Everglades alive.

Those in South Florida who don't care about the Everglades need to look at the report of the Governor's Commission that helped create the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. In the 1990s they unanimously concluded that "South Florida is not sustainable on its present course." That commission was made up of South Florida business people, not wild-eyed environmentalists.

Everglades National Park is dying because it’s not getting enough water. The coastal estuaries are dying because they are getting too much water. Climate changes will make that worse.

Miamians need to think what it’s like when the glades west Miami are on fire and the wind is from the west. For a lot of people it’s a nuisance. For old people and kids with asthma, it's a visit to the hospital emergency room.

If we don't send more water south from the Lake, there will be more dry season fires in the glades. Those fires will burn the organic muck soils and lower the ground surface. The Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee has lost up to 8ft of soil from drainage and fire.

What happens when the sea is getting higher and the ground is getting lower? You don't have to be a meteorologist or an hydrologist to know that the end result will be Florida Bay moving up Shark Valley Slough until Miami is surrounded by saltwater on three sides.

Moving water south from Lake Okeechobee will decrease the frequency of fires and preserve the muck . It will not stop the sea level from rising, but it will slow the process and give natural and man-made communities a chance to adapt.

In October of this year, the option to buy the key piece of US Sugar land south of the Lake runs out. The SFWMD says that they are “ looking at all options” to send the water south. That key piece of land south of the Lake is the only option on the table that can send Lake Okeechobee’s overflow waters south to the river of grass.

The water management district, the legislature, and the governor have shown no indication that they will close on the option and send the water south.

Unless residents and politicians throughout Miami-Dade join the angry folks from the damaged estuaries in demanding action, it's not going to happen.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. South Florida is looking the other way. History will pass judgement on those who do nothing. Then it will be too late.

Maggy Hurchalla
January 2015



Anonymous said...

We bike the Shark Valley trail, just west of Krome Avenue, at least three times a week. The 15 mile trail is a revelation in scenic beauty and the fauna found there is unique and irreplaceable. Nothing compares to the solitude and the sense of nature found at that wonderful site. I encourage all of those bigwigs in the sugar industry and every politician in charge of protecting the Everglades to walk the Shark Valley trail. Guaranteed that after they do they will pollute less and create more laws to protect our natural wonder.

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily disagreeing...however, Maggie needs to mind her own house and stop her hypocritical behavior as she blocks needed projects to get people off septic tanks that are also killing the St. Lucie and IRL.

Alexandria said...

Septic tanks are but a flea on a dog. I hear everyone wanting to move the water south but guess what that water is polluted beyond belief. You have to kill the head of the snake. Disney and Orlando every time they flush their toilet it goes directly into Lake Okeechobee and the so called farmers all along the way add insult to injury. So we cannot just send the water south you must clean up Big Sugar also. I suggest the Fanjuls go back to Cuba and we the taxpayers get the land for what Pepe and the gang bought it for since they destroyed the muck and made gazillions. Take out sugar and its poison and we may have half a chance. Until then people need to stop their NIMBY mentality. Sending filthy water south will destroy the Everglades even faster.............

Anonymous said...

Alexandria, you had us listening until the point where you asked for the Fanjuls to "go back to Cuba". Who do you represent? The INS? If your rule applied, where would you go backto since the entire swath of land belonged to the Miccousukees before any European set sight on it. Let's demand better laws and protection for the Everglades and evade prejudiced statements that only serve to keep the status quo.

Caffeine Clicks said...

Something definitely needs to be done about the discharges from Okeechobee killing the east and west estuaries. Last time I went to Sanibel the water was totally discolored.

Geniusofdespair said...

Thank you Gimleteye