“Everglades Restoration…” Really?

A Rest Stop Monument Marks what Might Have Been, instead of What Really Is

Next time you find yourself on Alligator Alley, a.k.a. I-75, take the exit at Mile 35 for the Broward County rest stop, where passing day trippers, tourists, and truckers can see the exhibit chronicling Everglades restoration.

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The display, which includes interactive buttons and elaborate dioramas, was commissioned by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on an 85-acre site with restrooms, vending machines, picnic tables, and boat ramps. Taxpayers spent $40 million for it all.

“Restoring the Flow” is the theme, with sections devoted to how the “comprehensive Everglades restoration plan” will, among other promises, “capture and store in reservoirs water that is currently being discharged to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.”  The problem is that not many, if any, of the projects, have actually happened. The exhibit is, in fact, a bizarre aspirational commemoration of what could have been at best or — at worst — another example of how “truth isn’t truth”.

The need to fix our water-based ecosystem in the state of Florida has never been as crystal clear as it is this summer, with stinky, murky waters flowing into Lake O and into the Gulf. This exhibit would lead you to believe that the problems have been solved, directly contradicting the evidence being washed up on beaches and clogging our canals. In fact, the “reservoirs” touted in the exhibit will, according to columnist and environmental advocate Carl Hiaasen, take at least another eight years to complete. And some scientists are even skeptical that they will work. “Finishing this new reservoir in eight years will be a steep challenge,” writes Hiaasen, “Unfortunately, for those whose lives and businesses are upended by seasonal discharges from Lake O, eight years could be a crushing eternity.” (Go here for more)

So, instead of getting better, things are getting far worse under the current administration. According to the Florida Sportsman (go here for an illuminating and scientific recap of the efforts), “The Scott administration’s willful resistance to regulations and its blind eye to the scientific study of the sources and causes of the algae blooms and red tide have evidently contributed to the plague of pollution in Florida’s waters.”

Rick Scott, however, would lead you to believe that the Federal government is to blame even though he assumed office in 2011 when a restoration plan had already been approved by Congress years earlier. That same year, Scott lopped off $700 million to fund the state’s water management districts — including the South Florida Water Management District, the lead state agency on Everglades restoration. If Adam Putnam, the only candidate for Governor still taking contributions (over $800,000 in direct donations) from the sugar industry wins, we can expect more of the same. The Feds, under the current administration, are highly unlikely to make any legitimate effort to intervene as they are too busy dismantling many other environmental protections around the country.  Back at Exit 35, it’s interesting to note that the majority of the seven commissioners of the Florida Wildlife Commission who built this exhibit are Scott appointees.

While Democrats stand for environmental stewardship, every single one of us, regardless of party affiliation, has a personal vested interest in the water, air, and soil. So, if we want action on these pressing issues, we need to vote for the party that honestly cares about the environment. Democrats actually will do something about it, as opposed to falsely commemorating actions-not-taken through expensive displays in public restrooms.

For more information on the Florida Democratic Party’s efforts related to the environment, join our newly-forming Environmental Caucus.