The issue affecting South Florida’s waterways is two-fold: too much water harms the northern coastal estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee, while too little freshwater reaches the Southern Everglades. The guacamole-thick algae blooms seen last year in the St. Lucie estuary and the sickly-yellow dead seagrasses in Florida Bay call for bold action. Florida Senator Rob Bradley has delivered. Recently, Senator Bradley filed Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) which seeks to implement the plan proposed in August by Florida Senate President Joe Negron. The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District to buy land from a willing seller and advance the planning study of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Dubbed as “the EAA Reservoir,” this is a key component of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that was signed into law in the year 2000. The EAA Reservoir provides the best return on investment to get the water right for three estuaries currently in distress. As the main recipients of the freshwater to be re-routed south into our thirsty Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, Miami-Dade legislators must lend their full support to pass SB 10 this legislative session.
If fixing the flow of freshwater into ecologically-challenged and economically-important estuaries is not enough to sway you to call your legislator right now, consider the fact that the EAA Reservoir would help recharge our aquifer. In Miami-Dade County, we live above our main drinking water supply, the Biscayne Aquifer. Flowing more freshwater south through the Central Everglades, into Everglades National Park and out through Florida Bay automatically provides Miami-Dade County with a refill of life’s most important element. The EAA Reservoir would provide a new outlet for Lake Okeechobee water to facilitate a southern flow through infrastructure that cleans and moves the water south. Progress on Everglades restoration means that more infrastructure reconnecting the Lake to Everglades National Park and water in the Park to Florida Bay is coming online, making the Reservoir even more beneficial. For a county that continues to grow, protecting our main drinking water supply should be a no-brainer and our number one priority.
In 2014, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment was passed by 75 percent of voters who supported funding for conservation land acquisition. The Amendment specifically approved using funds for buying land in the EAA and for Everglades restoration. As a business owner, I see the use of bonding as proposed in Bradley’s bill to finance the land acquisition, study and construction of this project as a smart financial plan. It provides the flexibility to fast-track this crucial project in order to see the return on our Everglades restoration investments in a speedier timeframe. This bill is the best piece of legislation that Miami-Dade legislators and residents can stand behind this year. We have the funds, a good financial plan, the will of the voters, and the Florida Senate President on our side. With the political will from our Dade Delegation, this ambitious proposal to protect our coasts, the Everglades and our water supply can become a reality.
Jud Laird, Miami
Chair of Florida Audubon Society's Board of Directors