The readers’ forum

Final goal of Everglades restoration in sight


This spring I was proud to carry a House bill to conclude Everglades restoration south of Lake Okeechobee, closing one of the most successful environmental restoration efforts in Florida history. By fully funding the plan proposed by Gov. Rick Scott, we will ensure that the southern Everglades and Everglades National Park will forever receive water of high quality that exceeds every standard placed upon it over the past 20 years.

Nearly a hundred years before a single sugar farmer made his way to Palm Beach County, the citizens of Florida approved and funded a plan to drain the state. The ultimate result of these policies was the creation of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, now managed principally by the South Florida Water Management District. The project was designed to protect human life and property from floods, provide drinking water to two million people in South Florida and make land available for farming.

Nearly 60 years later, the relatively tiny Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) grows more than half the sugarcane and a majority of the sweet corn and winter vegetables for the nation. Also, we have never repeated a massive loss of life from flooding as occurred during the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes when 5,000 died. Our system now supplies drinking water to more than 6 million people. By every measure for which it was designed, the project exceeds all expectations.

However, the 1940s-era project was never designed for the natural Everglades and, undoubtedly, we’ve paid a heavy price for it. Florida has spent the past 40 years intensively focused on reverse engineering this system to accommodate environmental restoration and protection. Under a court order to clean the water to a level of 10 parts per billion (ppb) of phosphorous, we have now reached 13 ppb, down from nearly 70 ppb. That is an astounding accomplishment. The new Everglades law will get us to the final goal – that’s why the plan was approved unanimously by the Legislature.

The June 10 Other Views column Another break for Big Sugar, by former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, unfortunately shows that he and his allies in the environmental movement will only be satisfied once 8 million South Floridians complete their exodus from the Everglades. My colleagues and I in the state capital choose to deal in reality, however.

While farmers within the EAA serve as an easy target for Judah, he refuses to acknowledge that the vast majority of the water reaching the Caloosahatchee River comes from north of Lake Okeechobee. With the help of my colleagues, we have secured additional funding for the first water quality project on the Caloosahatchee in history. When it breaks ground later this year, it will begin to remove high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen from the river.

While Judah talked about the river for 30 years, I’m proud to have helped facilitate a real project in my three years of political service. I consider myself a conservationist and support projects that promote and protect the environment in a way that complements human presence. I’m honored by the opportunity to serve this state.

Matthew H. Caldwell, state representative, Lehigh Acres

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

  • The readers’ forum

    Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens the American Dream

    Globalization is here, what’s not is fair trade. Congress should be deciding how trade agreements will affect ordinary people in this country and around the world, not government and big businesses representing the 12 countries that have spent years negotiating a massive new trade bill without telling the public about it.

  • Native Americans

    The July 20 article Colleges woo Native Americans with new programs describes how colleges around the country are seeing the need to create programs to prepare Native Americans to leave their tribes and start their college careers.

  • Protect humans

    The matter of eliminating mosquito control was described in the July 23 article County challenged on mosquitoes. South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard declared the city to be a “wildlife sanctuary.”

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category