Palm Beach Post, May, 2014

CEPP and EVERGLADES RESTORATION

by Maggy Hurchalla

Recently a Corps of Engineers Review Board in Washington threw a monkey wrench in Everglades restoration by failing to approve a key project.

Everyone from local officials to Florida’s governor to the president had supported the project that got derailed. That support was a model for cooperation in a politically gridlocked world.

The denial by the Corps bureaucracy left those who care about the Everglades in a puzzled rage.

The rage was duly communicated and the unfortunate decision will be reversed.

It provided a wake up call we need to pay attention to.

We need to remind the world, the country and ourselves, what is at stake. We need to let them know we can’t wait to do the operation until after the patient has died.

There are no other Everglades in the world. It is the second largest wetland in the whole wide world. It is recognized as a World Heritage site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. 

What is at stake is far more than “just” the Everglades. 

It is about all of South Florida and the interconnected wonders that make up the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. 

That system runs from just south of Orlando through the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. 

It holds the largest mangrove swamp in the world and the biggest seagrass beds. Without them we would be without fish and lobster and stone crabs and a recreational fishery like no place in the world.

It includes the third largest barrier reef in the world and surely the most accessible. Those who have dived or snorkeled or passed over the reef in a glass bottom boat know that in terms of both biological diversity and the artistic wonder of creation, it is world class.

All this belongs, not just to Florida, but to the residents of every state who come here to vacation or retire. Twenty-five million people a year visit Florida. There is no other state that is shared by so many Americans. 

It’s hard to believe we could kill all those superlatives.

But we can and we will if we do not vigorously pursue COMPREHENSIVE Everglades restoration. It can’t be about my project vs. your project. It has to be about getting the water right  to make the whole system work.

It’s disturbing to find out that urban South Florida legislators aren’t as worried about their future water supply as we are about our river.

It’s frustrating to find that North Florida legislators seem to think Everglades restoration is a project that doesn’t affect them. They should imagine trying to run the state with South Florida’s water supply and economy disappearing.

You have to wonder why every Congressman from Florida isn’t fighting for Florida’s Everglades.

Last summer Martin County residents had a front row seat watching our estuary die. We know that restoration has to be comprehensive and it can’t wait.

The state and federal officials that are involved in restoration have learned that the blame game doesn’t sell and it doesn’t work. Cooperation is beginning to happen.

We need to organize around that cooperation and create a national lobbying effort to educate Congress and their constituents about what is at stake.

In 2000, Congress, almost unanimously, approved CERP and committed to saving America’s Everglades.

We need to hold them to that promise.