I rarely write letters to the editor, but last week’s unfortunate guest column by Mike Collins, “Everglades Foundation needs to accept the facts” did force me to put pen to paper.
Please consider these points:
▪ It is true that Mike Collins has been a resident for 37 years and been on the South Florida Water Management District board. He states, “I have been involved with this historic restoration effort from the very beginning. “ And here we are, undeniably facing a very real crisis in Everglades restoration.
He does not bolster his credibility when he claims, “I know how to fix the problem and have been part of the team working on it” when we have 50,000 acres of dead seagrass at our backdoor and toxic algae north of us. It would be hard to convince anyone (unless strangely motivated by politics or money) that the restoration process has been a success.
▪ I find humor in the accusation from this retired fishing guide (and many others) that the Everglades Foundation is not mission-driven but financially driven in its efforts. This argument baffles me. So let me get this straight: Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg is really just in it for the huge paycheck ( surely he could make more money elsewhere with better prospects for re-hiring) and is actually “selling snake oil” to keep his job?
The supposition that people and corporations who work on environmental issues — outside of our “protective” government agencies — should not be paid is laughable but certainly appeals to a certain segment of our population. Imagine the amazing shopping malls, gated communities and five-star parking lots that would be in the Everglades today if organizations like the foundation didn’t exist (named Heron’s Liar, the Croc Walk, the River Walk of Shopping.). I don’t think guys like Eikenberg, who live, sleep and breathe this stuff, can be paid enough. I will happily donate to that organization if it means I can keep fishing.
▪ Finally, I must dispute this statement from the guest column:
“Eikenberg dares 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.” This statement implies that Eikenberg made up this reservoir project while he was reading a bedtime story to his children.
This project has been part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan since the beginning. It is a link to the overall plan and, hey, it is missing. This “link” is conveniently absent from CEPP (the little bundle of projects that were supposed to get more water moving in the central part of the Everglades) and it is the component that would bring new/more/dynamic water flow to the bay. As it has been explained, without a dynamic flow of water (that is, availability of new water), we are only moving water that is already in the system. Which leaves us praying for rain.
Perhaps he is taking the reservoir project too literally? This reservoir is not designed like a swimming pool. Inherent in the plan for the creation of a reservoir would be a method of conveying that water south.
This conversation is beyond science. It is about politics. And the politics of Everglades restoration runs deep.
Xavier Figueredo, Bay and Reef Co. of the Florida Keys, Islamorada