“The only thing blocking water from the 730-square-mile lake is 800 square miles of sugar cane…It’s blocking the water and killing the Everglades” – Kimberly Mitchell, the executive director of the Everglades Trust; TC Palm, 12 Feb 2019.
This quote is the type of elegant lie in which some “activists” specialize and has damned the River of Grass for over a half century.
The total Everglades cover 7,500 square miles, stretching from Orlando to Flamingo. Just the Southern Everglades alone cover 4,266 square miles. In contrast, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) spans roughly 984 square miles of which nearly one-third has already been acquired for conservation purposes. The majority of Southern Everglades consists of the Water Conservation Areas (WCA) and the urban communities of South Florida. This urban area includes basically all of the land west of present-day I-95 including Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Miami Lakes and Hialeah and was underwater in the “Great Flood” of 1947. This area of the (former) Everglades is now drained to protect the roughly 3 million residents from flooding.
The truth is that even if you purchased and flooded the entire EAA, the damage that happened to our estuaries in 2018 would still occur. Unless these “activists” plan to flood out the 3 million residents in South Florida, their version of “restoration” is just a scam. In Ms. Mitchell’s paradigm it is all of the managed land, the EAA, WCA and urban South Florida, that “block” water from reaching the Park.
The solution is not a mystery. We can have healthy estuaries and a healthy Everglades, because they are one and the same. Doing so requires us to build the projects that have languished for decades while “activists” paraded their shiny new objects. During my time in the Florida House, we made immense progress including permanent funding through the Legacy Florida Act; a permanent tax on EAA farmers for Everglades projects (making them the only landowners that pay two taxes); and finally funding the bridging of US 41, the real keystone to moving water south.
“The investments made over the last two decades are making a difference in the Southern Everglades. We can, and we must, finish total Everglades restoration – from north of Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries. We have a unique opportunity, with Trump, DeSantis, Rubio, and Scott all committed to the same larger goal. We cannot allow our efforts to be derailed once again by petty and vindictive politics. Don’t get distracted by those that peddle hate. Stick to the plan. Recognize that we are not “restoring” the Everglades of 1885, nor could we ever. We are creating an Everglades that works for all Floridians, regardless of where they live. This is the positive vision to which I’ve dedicated nearly 15 years of my life and for which I will continue to fight every day.”
Matt Caldwell was a member of the Florida House from 2010-2018 and the Republican nominee for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018.