Stuart News, May 21, 2014

We are not going to give up fight for St. Lucie River

by Maggy Hurchalla

On May 3rd we held a funeral for the river at the St. Lucie Locks.

It seemed the right thing to do after a Corps review board bashed CEPP over the head with a blunt instrument. 

CEPP is the Central Everglades Plan. It’s the first step in sending water south. It’s a small step, but if we can’t even take baby steps to save the Everglades and save our river, then they are going to die.

At the funeral we decided to trust in hope instead of despair.

We are not going to bury the river and we are not going to give up.

Someone got the message. The Corps review board will be reconsidering within the month.

A reporter asked me if all this protesting made any difference.

I answered that it is the only thing that does make a difference.

It’s hard to count your blessings when you’ve just been beat over the head and you know that when it rains again they will be dumping Lake Okeechobee again.

But good things are happening.

Not good enough, but lots better than a year ago when the river was covered with green slime and everyone was blaming everyone else.

CEPP went to Washington with the bipartisan support of absolutely everyone except the Corps Review Board.

Local officials, the SFWMD, our legislative delegation, Rep. Patrick Murphy and other Florida Congressmen, Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Nelson, Col. Dodd of the Corps, the Sec. of the Interior, the Asst. Sec. of the Army for Public Works, and the President of the United States all got behind it as a “must do” project.

That’s monumental progress over the blame game of last summer.

That cooperation is further reflected in the resolution of disagreements between the state and the Feds on finishing the C11 and the Kissimmee restoration. Progress is being made on putting the Ten Mile Creek Reservoir to work cleaning up the North Fork of the St. Lucie.

Sen. Joe Negron, supported by the governor, came through with a funding package like we haven’t seen in years.

The second bridge on the Tamiami Trail will be built so we can send more water south,

The C44 Reservoir and its stormwater treatment areas will move forward on the St. Lucie Canal.

For the first time since 2008, money is available to implement the IRL-South Plan which will slow down and clean up the water that’s dumped into the river from the flood control canals in the St. Lucie watershed.

Gov. Scott killed HB 703 that would have taken away local river protection.

Negron and Scott share credit for breaking the logjam on sending more water south. Money was budgeted for the UF Water Institute to quit arguing about flowways vs. other ways and find the BEST WAY to send water south.

The Water and Land Legacy amendment is on the ballot in November to create a dedicated funding source to rescue our rivers and springs and wetlands.

This isn’t just about Martin County and the river we love. But you have made a difference because, more than any other place in Florida, residents here recognize that the fate of the river we love is inextricably tied to a comprehensive restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and the survival of the urban areas and the wild places from Orlando through the Keys.

We are not going to give up.

Maggy Hurchalla was a Martin County commissioner 1974-94. She has received numerous state and national awards for her work on restoration of the Everglades and Indian River Lagoon.