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Right now, most of what I publish daily is at www.goodmorningkeywest.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on that link. That’s because I live down there now and am running for mayor. Sometimes I put something new on this website, too.
This past Tuesday night, I attended a water quality symposium at Eco-Discovery in Key West, co-hosted by Last Stand and Everglades Law Center
Here’s the Key West Citizen report on the symposium:
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Add to Facebook Add to Twitter
Everglades restoration will benefit Keys, say experts
BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff
Experts in the field of water quality and coral reef ecology made their case Tuesday night why major ongoing Everglades restoration projects will benefit the Florida Keys environmentally and economically.
The Florida Keys environmental group Last Stand and the Everglades Law Center scheduled two public forums in the Keys this week to better explain the importance of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project.
The panel of experts gave an overview of how the Everglades restoration projects will bring more and cleaner fresh water into Florida Bay, benefitting Keys waters, “one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Caribbean,” said panel member and National Marine Sanctuaries Program Regional Administrator Billy Causey.
Decades of water management policies redirected the natural flow of fresh waters away from the southern end of the Everglades and Florida Bay, essentially to benefit the agriculture industry and residential development in South Florida. Those practices led to a collapse of Florida Bay and its seagrass ecosystems in the early 1990s, as half of its fresh water influx was removed, said panel member Tom Van Lent, director of science and policy for the Everglades Foundation.
State and federal government projects to fix the water flow began in the early 2000s, and continue today.
The road to Everglades recovery must include more clean fresh water; remove barriers to natural water flow; and restore the historical flow, Van Lent said.
One of the biggest Army Corps of Engineers projects currently ongoing is the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will restore the flow of water across hundreds of acres in the center of the Everglades, according to Van Lent’s presentation.
“It’s not as easy to put it back to what it was, but that is Everglades restoration,” Van Lent said. “It won’t heal itself.”
Florida Bay encompasses the Upper Keys backcountry waters, and is frequented by nearly all of the Upper Keys flats and backcountry fishing guides.
The ocean, reefs and backcountry waters off the Keys alone generate more than $140 million a year directly through fishing and diving, according to NOAA statistics.
The Florida Keys is also the highest grossing commercial seafood hub in the state, in terms of revenue, and third largest in the country, bringing in more than $100 million a year, according to the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association.
For every $1 the government puts towards Everglades restoration, there is a $4 return to the South Florida economy, said panel member Jerry Lorenz, Audubon of Florida’s director of research at its Tavernier Science Center.
Lorenz, who actively conducts bird and fish counts in the Everglades and Florida Bay, argued that the health of key species of commercially and recreationally fished marine life — such as spiny lobster, stone crab, redfish and snook — depend on healthy water flows out of the Everglades and into Florida Bay and the Keys.
“It’s not just about the ecosystem, it’s about the economy,” Lorenz said. “This is what we sell. This is what we are.”
I saw Tim leave the auditorium during the symposium. Or perhaps he went to the bathroom and came back into the auditorium and I did not see him return. Perhaps while Tim was away was when the Everglades Law Center lawyer informed Billy Causey and the scientists that the Army Corps of Engineers, earlier yesterday, had announced they will not participate in restoring the flow of water into the Everglades. The scientists’ sighs of disappointment were intense.
Here’s my report on the symposium:
I learned lots about Everglades history and nitrates and phosphates and corals. I learned coral reefs have been declining world-wide for some time, and the main cause seems to be global warming. I was not persuaded, however, by Billy Causey’s comment that nitrates and chemicals are not why much of our reef died off, because, Causey said, there is no evidence those chemicals ever reached our reef. The scientists, who spoke behind Causey, said phosphates and nitrates are bad for coral, sea grass, etc. And, a chart Causey put up on the screen showed some nitrates and phosphates on the reef
Causey and the scientists focused heavily on too much salinity in Florida Bay caused by the lack of normal freshwater flow out of the Everglades. And on sewerage pollution coming off the Florida Keys. And on global warming.
Brian LaPoint, PhD was not there – he might have had a stroke and dropped dead. His view is nitrates are what killed most of our reef, and nitrates are still coming down here from the mainland, through Florida Bay. Brian’s satellite photos of that happening, which he presented in a slide show to the Key West City Commission maybe two months ago, at the request of City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, were shocking and compelling. I felt Causey’s remarks were aimed dead and LaPointe, without saying so. I felt LaPoint should have been there, to provide his view. I tried to get Last Stand to do that, and was not successful. Cause told me after the symposium, after I told him that LaPoint first had schooled me, that that was my problem. I told Causey he is the problem.
That aside, Causey and the scientists and the environmental lawyer are on the right track saying the water flow through the Everglades needs to be restored. No kidding. Blocking the natural flow of water through the Glades was what screwed up the Glades and Florida Bay, which became more saline after much of the fresh water stopped going through the Glades into Florida Bay. One of the scientists said they hope to be able to restore 80 percent of the original water flow into the Glades, and to reestablish the old southward central water-flow pathway into Florida Bay near the Florida Keys.
The speakers said a great deal of water now is being jettisoned out of Lake Okeechobee into an east-west canal, through which the water heads to the west and east coasts of Florida and comes into Florida Bay far to the west. It was said the people on the east and west coasts are Florida are furious about all that water being dumped on them, large street protests against that water have happened. Not said last night was why the east and west Floridians are furious about receiving that dirty water.
After the meeting ended, I asked the lady lawyer if she had interviewed the people on the east and west coasts about why they are so upset about that water being sent to them from Lake Okeechobee? She said she had interviewed them. I said, then she knows they are up in arms over that water being dirty, full of nitrates and phosphates, which kill the sea grasses the manatees eat, and cause the red weed (algae, the red tide algae) to blossom. Losing their food source, the manatee starve. They eat the red weed, which is poisonous to them. They get sick, then they die.
The lady lawyer said, yes, that is happening. I said I wished they had told the audience that. For that is the same water they want to bring from Lake Okeechobee down through the Everglades into Florida Bay. Of course, that water must be cleaned up, before it can be released into the Glades. That’s why the dirty water had been diverted from the Everglades years ago, into Lake Okeechobee, because it was damaging the Glades and Florida Bay. The lady lawyer agreed, and said the scientists have designed a filter system, which they had hardly explained, after I told them from my seat that the filter system is critical, the most important thing, which they hope will clean up that dirty water. She said the dirty water cannot be allowed into the Glades.
I thought Causey had said during the meeting that Okeechobee water released through the Glades would be cleaned up by the time it reached Florida Bay. And I thought one of the scientists had said the dirty water had to be cleaned before it reached the Glades, because it would not be cleaned by passing through the Glades. Brian LaPoint told me a year ago that the dirty water would not be cleaned up by passing through the Glades. He also told me about the dirty water’s effect on the manatees on the east and west coasts, and how it grew a lot more red weed.
If I had not been schooled by LaPoint, I would not have known about the manatee dying, I would not have known of the dirty water coming out of Lake Okeechobee.
After speaking with the lady lawyer, I found Causey and covered most of that same ground with him. Then, I said, Governor Scott is up for reelection this year. His opponent, Charlie Crist, is an environmentalist, or so is said. The Republicans very much want Scott to be reelected this year. The Keys low number of voters is meaningless to Governor Scott. The east and west coast of Florida voter numbers are great, probably in the millions. Governor Scott wants to stop those east and west coast Floridians from demonstrating against that dirty water being sent to them and killing their manatees, but the Army Corps of Engineers wants to keep killing all those manatees and doesn’t want the restore the natural water flow though the Everglades! Imagine what FOX News CNN would do with that!
I told Causey that where he lives, on Big Pine Key, bio-hazard grinder pumps are widely being installed. Causey said he didn’t know about that situation. I said it is a big problem, and he should be all over it. I had told him the same thing maybe three months ago in the Marathon Government Center during a Marine Sanctuary meeting on polluted Florida Keys canals.
I then covered much the same ground, except for grinder pumps, with the scientists, one at a time.
When I told the last scientist that it looks to me their only mission is to try to get the water turned back on into the Glades, and to make sure that water is clean, he said they have only one valve they can turn, and that is the valve bringing all that water going east-west back down through the Glades. I said, I sure do hope they will be able to clean up that dirty water. He said he thinks they will will be able do it. That’s a heck of a lot of dirty water running out of Lake Okeechobee into that east-west canal, and then to the east and west Florida coasts.
I sat beside Al Sullivan during the presentation last night. Al used to be President of Last Stand. I said all day I was feeling something toxic coming into me, making me feel lousy, and I couldn’t figure out what it was, because I didn’t see anything concerning Key West, which would have that effect on me yesterday. And now here I was in the water quality symposium, seeing and hearing about what was making me feel so bad.
photo taken last year by Jolly Benson’s brother Will, a Key West tarpon guide, of cruise ship leaving Key West
Sitting on the other side of me last night was William Benson, Jolly Benson’s father. Jolly led the charge to defeat the bigger cruise ships calling on Key West referendum last year. William asked me what did I think the lady lawyer, Causey and the scientists felt about dirty cruise ships? I said I doubt they have any interest in that, I brought cruise ships up in Marathon a few months ago, and Causey looked at me like I was a lunatic. That might have been due to my also having quoted Brian LaPointe during my citizen comments.
Jerry Weinstock, M.D., Psychiatry, retired (sort of), also environtmanal activist, living in Key Haven just above Key West, wrote to me yesterday:
Sloan: the water quality in our canal was healthy, clear,
clean, full of marine sea life —-that is a span of
over 30 years. When the Cruise polluters arrived it
deteriorated rapidly, fiercely, perversely, into a
nightmarish horrible smelly unhealthy mess.
That is indisputable fact. regards—Jerry