Letters to the Editor

To see who stands where on Florida Bay, follow the money

These are dead trees on a recent outing to Florida Bay.
These are dead trees on a recent outing to Florida Bay. Keynoter

This letter is in response to Mike Collins’ editorial piece in the March 29 Keynoter.

In the long-suffering issue of Everglades restoration (and now the ailing Florida Bay), Collins solidly opposes building a reservoir for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee and attempts to deliver a gut punch to Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Eric Eikenberg. His tone was accusatory and derogatory. I was disappointed and disagree.

Collins tagged a list of his credentials after his name on the guest column. Missing was his service as commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association decades ago, a position I am honored to now hold. In my post, I am reminded daily of the gravity of being a steward to the environment. I live the effects of upstate mismanagement every day.

The pressure cooker of how to fix what has gone wrong is a muddle of science, politics and business that has been intensifying longer than I’ve been guiding. Ammunition is endlessly available to whichever side of the argument you want to champion. I’m a fishing guide. A simple guy. Even so, I know that nothing about the efforts are “pure and simple,” as Collins suggests. It's much murkier. Dark, even.

For a juicy morsel of the he-said-she-said, check out these two links:

https://www.sfwmd.gov/sites/default/files/documents/letter_2017_0109_everglades_foundation_vanlent_north_vs_south.pdf

http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/2017/01/12/the-everglades-foundation-response-to-the-south-florida-water-management-districts-letter/

They are letters exchanged between scientists at the South Florida Water Management District and the Everglades Foundation. The letters pertain to a study that Collins took issue with in his guest column. He sides with the South Florida Water Management District findings and disregards those of the Everglades Foundation.

Collins served on the Water Management District board after his guiding career. He was on the board in 2008 when it was under the then-Gov. Charlie Christ. A majority of board members voted in support of restoration outlined in government plans called the Central Everglades Planning Project and Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This specific measure was to acquire up to 180,000 acres of Everglades Agricultural Area land south of Lake Okeechobee for the purpose of storing and treating water before sending it south.

Finishing plans in the CEPP and CERP are exactly what Collins cried for in his editorial. He wrote that he could “definitely say” that finishing the plans “is the only way to achieve our goals." But while the majority of board members voted in favor of the land acquisition, Collins voted no. While other pieces of the restoration puzzle are on neutral ground, acquiring EAA land requires cooperation from big players in Florida’s agricultural empire, namely the sugar industry. Though the matter passed in 2008, once Gov. Rick Scott took office, he shut it down. Which doesn’t make the need any less relevant, it just reveals motives.

Motives are all-powerful. They determine actions. Who pays your bills? Trace that answer back to any individual and you’ll see a direct connection with their opinion. The more they get paid, the bigger the fight to relinquish a dime. And the deeper the resources to do so.

The need for healthy Florida waters is tactile to me. It’s the salt crust on my clothes, the fish slime on my hands or algal slime in the water. I support every effort that brings any measurable increase in clean fresh water south. I can’t escape or rationalize away its importance because I’m in it every day. But the further away you get from the water’s blue hue, the more enticing is the green.

Capt. Steve Friedman, Islamorada, Florida Bay Forever founding board member

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