Moving Ahead In 2018

As we move into 2018, I want to offer each of you a heartfelt “thanks” for supporting the Now or Neverglades movement during the short year and a half of our existence! Your support has moved us one step closer to the science-based solution of creating a dynamic southern water storage reservoir, a filtration system and return of flows south through the ‘Glades to Florida Bay, as nature intended. Only then will the dreadful manmade discharges from Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries be significantly reduced.

In 2017 we found a champion in Senate President Joe Negron, whose understanding of the issues and determination to solve the problem led Florida’s Legislature to overwhelmingly enact SB10 into law. Governor Scott agreed, and it was the right thing to do for our economy, health, drinking water supply, the Everglades and quality of life for 8 million south Floridians.

Per the terms of SB10, the South Florida Water Management District must present alternative plans for implementation to the legislature on January 9th. SFWMD has created five (though really only three are different) models, and during public input, many said the models fail to take full advantage of the resources offered in SB10. Many said they are not cost efficient and are overly complicated. Many said they offer a band aid when a tourniquet is readily available.

The Everglades Foundation’s science team modeled an alternative that fully utilizes SB10, and looks superior across the board: it’s simpler, in all probability cheaper, better on water quality and sends twice as much water south as any of the SFWMD alternatives. They presented this model to the SFWMD in December, and asked for it to be modeled by SFWMD staff, using the same assumptions used for the other alternatives, for presentation to the legislature on Jan 9th.

Great news for taxpayers and people who love Florida waters, right? Well it would be, if the SFWMD would agree to model it and incorporate it into its presentation on an “apples to apples” basis. But so far they have refused to model it, and indicated that they will not present anything other than the models they presented last month.

Personally, 40 years of observing SFWMD’s activities has not given me high confidence in the agency’s resolve to do the best job of following direction given by law, nor in its implementation of restoration policies. If the SFWMD will not in fairness voluntarily include what many believe to be a better alternative, I would urge the Legislature and Governor to demand its inclusion in the available options. Let the legislature have what it asked for in full so it can make the best choice for Floridians.

Trouble Is Brewing Again In South Florida

We saw the horrifying images last year – blue-green algae, brown water, dead fish and animals. Trouble is brewing again in South Florida as Lake Okeechobee releases resumed, sending polluted and nutrient-rich water cascading into the surrounding estuaries.

It’s supposed to rain frogs during the rainy season in Florida! Until a dynamic southern storage reservior and River of Grass flows to Florida Bay are complete, there will be no curing the problems for Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie and Florida Bay.

Governor Scott has called for the important step of expediting Herbert Hoover Dike repair. Now Scott and the rest of our legislature needs to step up and implement an appropriate-sized reservoir in a timely manner – a crucial step to restoring historic water flows and helping fix South Florida’s water.

Time is running out. It’s Now or Neverglades!

Picking Up The Pieces After Hurricane Irma

Florida is still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Irma, and one grave threat is all the extra water the hurricane dropped on Lake Okeechobee, which has brought the lake to its highest levels since 2005 and continues ongoing concerns about the dike around the lake failing.

In response, the Army Corps of Engineers is once again dumping billions of gallons of polluted, nutrient-rich water from the lake into the surrounding estuaries – just like they did last year, which resulted in toxic algae blooms that took a heavy toll on communities and ecosystems. The releases have been temporarily stopped due to concerns about flooding downstream, but they will resume again soon, sending more clouds of tainted brown water into the estuaries.

Meanwhile, the SFWMD is still dragging its feet on producing modeling showing how much land is needed for a dynamic reservoir to help address these issues. Experts agree that the current plan doesn’t provide for enough land. As we recover from this storm, we need to also think about the future. Solving the challenges around Lake O and the Everglades is an important and urgent key to managing similar weather events moving forward, as well as addressing an ongoing crisis for our South Florida communities, waterways and ecosystems. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Hurricane Irma

Mother nature intended Florida Bay and the Everglades to receive about 1/3 of its annual fresh water from tropical rains during the wet season. Well, we all know mother nature has fulfilled her mission this year through Irma at great cost and suffering to hundreds of thousands of Floridians. Our first concern is of course easing the pain for our friends impacted by this devastating event. I have been receiving hundreds of inquiries from supporters on how they can help with recovery.

Some of the strongest advocates of Now or Neverglades have been those connected with the fishing, boating and tourism industry. They have also been some of the most severely impacted by Irma, especially in areas where their livelihoods depend on visiting tourists.

The Herman Lucerne Memorial – a founding member of the Now or Neverglades Declaration – has started a Hurricane Irma relief fund, directing funds to help the many affected businesses and guides in the Florida Keys that have been supportive of their tournament fundraising efforts in the past. As one of the hardest hit areas and one that is heavily reliant on the tourism and fishing industry, the Florida Keys are in serious need of support now.

For almost 40 years, the Guides Trust Foundation has provided assistance to South Florida and Keys fishing guides and their families in time of need. Florida Keys guides have been some of the most outspoken proponents of Everglades restoration. Some have lost their boats and homes and all have had their businesses affected by the storm. Both organizations have little or no administrative costs and know the players intimately to insure the funds will have the greatest impact do many individuals.

Despite the ravages from Irma, this is no time to drop the ball on our mission of implementing SB10 which will create a dynamic water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee with filtration marshes to allow additional water to the Everglades and Florida Bay. This will also greatly relieve the devastating discharges currently destroying the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie estuaries. Three estuaries needing one common sense and scientifically agreed solution.

Army Corps of Engineers Committed To Expediting SB 10

This is BIG news! Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that that they are committed to expediting SB 10 and the building of the reservoir outlined in the bill. This is an important step forward in the process of helping to restore the Everglades and surrounding waterways.

In other important news, a TCPalm investigation into hundreds of emails they obtained from the South Florida Water Management District showed that the SFWMD was on the verge of tightening agricultural pollution regulations in 2014 before letting a sugar lobbyist dictate edits that resulted in substantially weaker regulations. It is a reminder that there are still strong forces working to oppose forward progress on Everglades restoration. Signing the Now or Neverglades Declaration is the best way to show that you stand with the people advocating for common sense solutions to Florida’s devastating water issues.

Algae Bloom In Lake Okeechobee Has Microcystin Levels That Are 80x More Toxic Than What WHO Deems To Be Unsafe Levels

Last week, Florida DEP announced that the latest algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee has microcystin levels that are 80 times more toxic than what the World Health Organization deems to be unsafe levels. Microcystins pose a grave health hazard and are capable of making humans and animals very sick. We can only hope that water levels in the lake remain low enough that water won’t need to be discharged into the estuaries, causing another environmental and human health disaster like the one we faced in 2016.

Decades of pollution and mismanagement have led us here, and the problems in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the surrounding communities will only be solved if we fix the water flows (sending more water south to Florida Bay and less east and west into the estuaries) and drastically reduce the levels of contaminants in that water. The swift implementation of SB-10 remains an important step in the efforts to fix the problems that are threatening ecosystems and communities in South Florida.

A New Era For The South Florida Water Management District?

Are we entering a new era for the South Florida Water Management District? Environmentalists are hopeful that the answer is yes, as scientist Ernie Marks was just tapped to take over the Executive Director of the SFWMD role, replacing Peter Antonacci.

Unlike Antonacci, whose main qualification was being general counsel to Governor Scott, Marks has a background in science and is highly qualified for the role. He has been working for the district as the director of Everglades policy and coordination, and previously served as the south region director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Prior to that, he spent 13 years working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Hopefully, science will be put back behind the wheel. That includes reestablishing ties to the National Academy of Sciences, beginning the scientific modeling laid out in SB10 to ensure there is sufficient land for the treatment needs of the 240-360K EAA reservoir, and tabling deep well injection, which was never a part of CERP, already objected to by the Army Corps of Engineers and would shortchange southern storage (needed for Florida Bay in drought conditions) by wasting water underground.

It’s time to let science and reason prevail. The appointment of Marks gives us cautious optimism that they will.

ICAST/IFTD Show In Orlando

Last week, the fishing industry gathered at the annual ICAST/IFTD show in Orlando, a fitting location since Florida has the largest fishing industry in the country. Also in attendance were representatives from the Now or Neverglades founding partners as well as Senator Joe Negron, who was primarily responsible for SB 10.

The show further affirmed enthusiasm for Now or Neverglades from the fishing world, with many more industry leaders signing the declaration and pledging support. The fishing industry recognizes that building the reservoir and completing the other critical Everglades restoration projects is key to both their businesses and way of life.

Meanwhile, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is threatening to stop cooperating with the team of scientists that advises Congress about Everglades issues. As we await the outcome of the reservoir and many other Everglades restoration projects, this is a concerning development, but we are hopeful that the unity of the companies and individuals affected by the challenges in the Everglades will help continue the push forward to save this national treasure.

“It’s An Emergency In The Everglades”

“It’s an emergency in the Everglades,” said Ron Bergeron, commissioner for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Heavy rains in the past few weeks in South Florida have continued to highlight what we already know – the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is needed to help properly store, clean and convey fresh water. Without it, the state is left with only poor choices for how to manage the flooding, inevitably putting coastal communities, our waterways, ecosystems and many species of animals, fish and birds at grave risk. The situation is urgent, and this has to stop. We need to keep the pressure on and ensure that the reservoir is built in a timely manner so we can prevent the cycle of catastrophic drought and flooding from happening in the future.

Thank you for your continued support of our efforts.

Senate Bill 10 Implementation Schedule

Last month marked a major legislative victory for Everglades restoration, the culmination of the hard work of many lawmakers, individuals, companies and organizations. Still, there is much work to be done, and we need to keep the pressure on to ensure that the legislation – calling for building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey freshwater – becomes a reality.

Below is a timeline of important milestones to ensure Senate Bill 10 is implemented in a timely manner and the reservoir is built.

We have won a major victory, but now is not the time for complacency. Thank you for helping us keep the pressure on to ensure a brighter future for the Florida Everglades.