Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sugar land purchases are necessary for Florida's future: Guest blog

Guest commentary: Sugar lands south of lake needed for restoration, water flow
Ray Judah
6:03 PM, Jun 29, 2015

Michael Collins' politically charged rhetoric in his recent guest commentary criticizing Erik Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, for supporting the state option with U.S. Sugar to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for treatment, storage and conveyance of water to the Everglades was fraught with the same dismissive attitude he exhibited while on the South Florida Water Management District board.

Well known for his long-standing support of the sugar industry, Collins erroneously states that "spending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to grab private land and build a reservoir where he (referring to Eikenberg ) wants to build it will do virtually nothing for our water supply, will not solve critical water quality problems in the estuaries, and will delay critical restoration projects needed for Everglades restoration we all support."

In fact, restoration of a central flow way south of Lake Okeechobee is critical to recharging the Biscayne Aquifer to ensure adequate water supply for millions of people on the east coast; provide for proper flow rate and volume of water to renourish the Everglades; alleviate the massive releases of polluted water currently being redirected to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie resulting in the destruction of the estuaries on the west and east coast of South Florida; and is the final piece of the puzzle for meaningful comprehensive Everglades restoration.

Collins further suggests that an incredibly expensive water management system put in place since the 1950s has increased the flow of water into the Everglades. In fact, the Everglades Agricultural Area, including approximately 440,000 acres of sugar cane fields, south of Lake Okeechobee has severed the hydrological connection between the lake and the Everglades. The inability of the water district and the sugar industry to comply with the 1989 federal consent decree, limiting the discharge of phosphorus to 10 ppb, has substantially reduced the volume of clean water needed to nourish and support a healthy Everglades ecosystem.

Continuing his attack on Mr. Eikenberg, Collins states that "billions of dollars have been invested and pledged, and cooperative efforts are making historic improvements in both water quality and quantity in the Everglades and related critical estuaries."

In reality, Mr. Collins needs to look the public taxpayers in the eye and attempt to defend such a specious argument. The Everglades and coastal estuaries are dying due to the disruption of the flow and volume of surface water runoff and decades of agricultural runoff of chemicals including insecticides, fungicides and pesticides along with nutrient loading of phosphorous and nitrogen resulting in harmful algae blooms and devastating impacts to fish and wildlife.

Collins dismisses the need for additional land to responsibly manage the Lake Okeechobee watershed by asserting that "after 15 years of science, study, discussion and cost-analysis, water storage, water treatment areas and shallow flow basins are part of the consensus scientific restoration plans among water managers, elected officials, stakeholders and experts."

But here's the problem: the Central South Florida Flood Control project model used as the basis for Everglades restoration under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program is seriously flawed because the model incorporated data collected from a historic 30-year dry cycle from 1965 to 1995. The water district underestimated the need for water storage to restore the Everglades and there is a need for an additional one million acre feet of water storage to properly manage maximum flow from Lake Okeechobee.

Collins' suggestion that scientists do not support restoration funds on an expensive new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is contradicted by the recent University of Florida Water Institute study that recommended the state proceed with the limited time option with U.S. Sugar to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for critical water storage.

Facts are, indeed, inconvenient sometimes.


cyndi said...

Two worlds. us. the good guys. them. beholden to big sugar. Love Ray Judah! The sugar beholders crack me up. I doubt they have even gone to the STA's to see whats going on.

50-year local said...

Collins is still holding out hope for underground storage, even in the face of new, peer-reviewed scientific publications that show the folly of Aquifer Storage and Recovery. ASR will not save the Everglades. Collins talks about water supply for humans and agriculture, supporting oligarchy at priority one. I believe h
e needs a primer about the significant differences between the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act.

Anonymous said...

Michael Collins is right about one thing. He was there, on the District Board when this deal came up, and he knows what every scientist and engineer and planner at the SFWMD knew then and knows now: This is a bad deal. This is the wrong land, in the wrong place, for the wrong price, and no continuing delusions will change those facts. The multi-millions of dollars that will be spent just to buy the land won't be the end. The taxpayers will then be on the hook for hundreds of millions more in engineering designs, environmental cleanup and heavy earthwork and construction just to make that land usable in any way. Spend the money where it will be more effective. Use eminent domain to buy the Florida Crystals lands to the east. That's the lands that are needed for the Everglades enhancement (PLEASE stop calling it restoration - it is no such thing - true restoration is impossible unless you will remove ALL development in Western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties).