Operations is how we move water around the system and is critical to the health of our environment in the Everglades and South Florida.
A change in the operational management of the lake does not replace the need for more infrastructure, but rather focuses on a near-term fix that could prevent thousands of people from being poisoned, and stop the collapse of the northern estuaries, the Everglades, and Florida Bay, today. Operations is how we move water around the system and is critical to the health of our environment in the Everglades and South Florida. In 2017 and 2019, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham called for the Everglades Coalition Conference to pressure Congress to update the 1948 Congressional priorities for operating the system to reflect the “broader palette” of issues Florida faces today.
Operation of the system is based on congressionally mandated priorities created in the Flood Control Act of 1948 (P.L. 80-858) known as the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interprets the priorities from the C&SF Project report to be: (1) Flood and storm risk management; (2) Navigation; (3) Water supply (4) Enhancement of fish and wildlife; and (5) Recreation. These priorities were created at a time when Florida had approximately 2.5 million people and a very different economy.
The Corps is responsible for balancing the Congressionally mandated priorities, but they have consistently managed the system for the benefit of private companies at the expense of the environment, the economy, and the health of Floridians. A myth in Everglades restoration is the notion of “shared adversity” where all stakeholders bear some risk and some harm while we collectively wait for completion of infrastructure to solve many of the problems faced across the watershed. But it doesn’t take much digging to recognize that the approximately 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), a product of the C&SF report and the former River of Grass, is the big winner in the system. Crop yields in the EAA are consistently increasing, while three world class estuaries–the St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and Florida Bay— and Everglades National Park face consistent harm, including salinity imbalances, loss of habitat and biodiversity, and massive seagrass die-offs, due to managing the system for the primary benefit of the EAA. Until Congress updates the operational priorities of the C&SF project, Florida’s environment, economy, and human health of our residents and tourists will be at risk.
A film by Spencer Miller
Talented documentary filmmakers weave complex issues into stories you can’t look away from. Spencer Miller does even more with Sweetwater: He tells a deeply personal, sad, and ultimately hopeful story about the decline of South Florida’s waterways and the fight to recover them.