There's not just dirty water in the Everglades and
our waterways, there's dirty politics, too."
Historically, the Everglades used to cover most of South Florida, stretching from present day Orlando all the way south to Florida Bay, the headwaters of the Florida Keys. Water from the Kissimmee River would fill Lake Okeechobee and then flow south into the River of Grass. But sadly, this is no longer what the Everglades looks like.
BROKEN WATER 101
Today, water can no longer freely flow south from Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades Agricultural Area, owned mostly by subsidized sugar companies, sits right where the River of Grass used to begin.
The water in Lake O has been contaminated with all kinds of nutrients from agricultural fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorus, so much that the water in the lake is considered far too polluted to be sent directly on to the Everglades like it used to.
Instead of sending lake water south to be cleansed and released into the Everglades throughout the year, we hold all this polluted water in Lake Okeechobee to provide irrigation water for 400,000 acres of sugarcane, benefiting U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, until the water levels become so high that trillions of gallons of polluted water have to be dumped down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and out into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Not only is this a waste of precious freshwater, but it also damages our coastal estuaries, kills fish, and contributes to toxic Red Tide and sends toxic blue-green algae into our waterways, endangering nearly 8 million Floridians up and down the coast.
Meanwhile, the Everglades and Florida Bay, the headwaters of the Florida Keys, are desperate for clean freshwater. Everglades National Park receives less than half of the water it once did, and what’s left of the historic River of Grass will run dry if it doesn’t get more water soon.
So why can’t we just clean all this extra water and send it south to where it belongs? Well, that's exactly what we’ve been trying to do.
Why can’t we just restore the Everglades and ensure its survival for generations to come?
VISION. LEADERSHIP. SCIENCE.
It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we hold those three values in high regard. But magic alone won’t save the Everglades. We also need Political Will.
What is Political Will? It’s easy to spot when you see it. A defining element of historical moments, it is what is required when called to stand for something much larger than ourselves. It is the leader who will stand and fight the status quo.
It’s been more than two decades since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was signed into law and we still don’t have the right elements in place to send the water south. While we’ve made some progress, it has not been enough. What we have had enough of are stall tactics, delays, and a kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality that has allowed polluters to keep polluting with impunity.
The destructive influence of Big Sugar is deeply embedded in both political parties in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. For us to merely vote along party lines will not break their stranglehold on Florida’s government.
That means voting for candidates with the political will to stand up to the status quo and force the change we need to save the Everglades and three nationally vital coastal estuaries.
Do Floridians want a restored Everglades and thriving coastal estuary ecosystems or not?
FIX THE POLITICS
Not only is the Everglades one of the most important ecosystems on the planet, but it is also the source of drinking water for 9 million Floridians and untold tens of millions of visitors.
Our ability to reverse the trajectory of decline in the Everglades and coastal estuaries is not just a test of our scientific knowledge, engineering smarts and our determination to never give up, but it is also about the choices we make to elect leaders who are able to address the most important challenges of our times.
The most important issue isn’t what we must do next. That question is already answered and is uncontroverted scientific fact: Send more clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
Given that we know what to do next, we are left with ballot box choices. Which leaders understand that the most important element of this multi-decade effort is a partnership? Do Floridians want a restored Everglades and thriving coastal estuary ecosystems or not?