Finally! There is now consensus that the SFWMD refused to follow the law in planning the EAA Reservoir, the project that fast-tracked reducing toxic discharges and rewatering the parched Everglades.
The Now or Neverglades Coalition, Everglades Coalition, even Senate President Joe Negron has expressed frustration that although the law is clear, the SFWMD refuses to model an optimal footprint, with enough treatment and a reasonable depth reservoir to provide maximum benefit, at minimal cost, with minimal risk of failure.
Taxpayers expect better and the Everglades deserve better.
So what do you do when the state agency in charge of Everglades Restoration is a scofflaw? That is what we are going to find out today, when Senate President Joe Negron holds a town hall in Stuart, ground zero for Lake Okeechobee's 2016 toxic algae crisis. (Watch on Facebook Live at 5:30 at TCPalm's page: facebook.com/tcpalm/)
One idea--and this idea also has overwhelming consensus--is to demand that the SFWMD model a better plan if anyone presents it--and Dr. Tom Van Lent of the Everglades Foundation has done just that.
The Foundation Concept looks better than any of the SFWMD plans by every measure:
- It sends twice as much water south--the whole purpose of SB10.
- It is almost certainly cheaper, with a shallower reservoir than SFWMD plans.
- It is simpler and less risky--both in terms of getting approved at the federal level and not breaking existing water quality protections for the Everglades.
The Foundation proposal calls for no loss of private farmland, just intelligent use of state owned land. But their plan, and the law, also expect that SFWMD works for taxpayers, not the protected sugar industry.
The biggest difference between Foundation and SFWMD proposals, according to Dr. Van Lent?
"The SFWMD starts with, ‘What is possible given this predetermined minimal footprint and a predetermined flow south? The Everglades Foundation starts with ‘Using the tools in SB10, what is the maximum benefit to the estuaries and Everglades?’”
Where you end up depends on where you start. The SFWMD starting point gave us sub-optimal proposals. The Foundation Concept follows the spirit and letter of the law, and gives us a better proposal.
This project is our best shot at fixing our water problems. It will cost taxpayers $2 billion. We may never have another chance. We deserve better than the SFWMD shoehorn plan.
Let's hope Senate President Negron, the champion of SB10, is willing and able to do what it takes so that the estuaries and Everglades get the optimal plan, and the relief they were promised.