I was extremely disappointed to read a blatantly biased article in the Keynoter that provided the Everglades Foundation a solo sound-off disguised as a news story. Where is the other side of the story? Where is the real news based on real science, published and peer reviewed?
Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Eric Eikenberg, peddles his science like a snake oil salesman on a soap box yelling that this elixir known as a southern reservoir is the cure-all for Everglades restoration. It is not. How do I know this? I have existing relationships with real scientists and engineers that seek only to restore the Everglades, not get into a political fistfight. I made and kept those connections because in my previous life, I served as the South Florida Water Management District governing board chairman during a time when Everglades legislation was passed by the state and federal governments and supported by environmental groups, along with businesses.
With all due respect, Eikenberg is using manipulated numbers that are self-serving to further goals bought and paid for. The water district’s chief hydrologist has already discredited the “science” that is the basis for the commissioned Clemson University financial study. Dr. Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute, has stated that water storage either north or south would have similar reduction numbers to estuaries, meaning that the financial gains as presented in the Clemson piece should be the same as well.
In addition, contrary to claims, decades of research and monitoring by multiple state and federal agencies and universities has failed to find any water quality problems in Florida Bay. It’s a lack of fresh water, pure and simple. This might come off as blunt, but the facts are hard to ignore.
I live in the Keys. I worked in Florida Bay for 37 years. I long to see this area restored back to its former glory and I know that a southern reservoir does not achieve that in the least. Conveyance through Taylor Slough is the key. That is why you finish the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Central Everglades Planning Project.
Currently the Water Management District, US. Army Corps of Engineers and half a dozen other state and federal agencies are engaged in modeling and designing projects as part of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Plan. Those projects can be built faster, cheaper and will hold more water than the proposed reservoir. When you objectively look at all options and solicit feedback from all parties that have a stake in Florida’s water management future, you can maximize the intended benefits and costs associated with those solutions.
Eikenberg dare to call the southern reservoir the missing link. I can state as pure matter of fact that plopping a giant 360,000-acre reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area by itself sends zero new water into Florida Bay. Once again, only conveyance through Taylor Slough solves that. Yet he predatorily plays on the emotions of my fellow South Florida residents whose livelihoods depend on that body of water.
I have been involved with this historic restoration effort from the very beginning. I can definitively say finishing projects is the only way to achieve our goals. Just take a look at the water district’s plan to deliver more fresh water to Florida Bay. With the project well under way, these improvements are estimated to double the flow of water into the headwaters of Taylor Slough by as much as 6.5 billion gallons more fresh water per year on average that would reach Florida Bay. This will help save the bay by reducing salinity levels and promoting the recovery of seagrasses killed during a severe drought in the summer of 2015. That plan showcases how South Florida can use science effectively to solve real issues.
You would think the Everglades Foundation would be thrilled to actually send water south into Florida Bay; that has been its platform. Of course, it opposes this plan, just like it opposed the original publicly approved C-111 South Dade study that spawned this ingenious project. Instead, the misguided Everglades Foundation claims water sent through Shark River Slough reaches Florida Bay, a claim that has been discredited by actual science conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Everglades Foundation on the wrong side of science. Call this a trend.
Mike Collins has served as chairman of the original Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and was a member of the Governors Commission for a Sustainable South and the South Florida Water Management District governing board for 11 years. He has lived in Islamorada since 1974.