Buy the land, and send the water south. That’s the war cry of the folks where dumping Lake Okeechobee is killing the their coastal estuaries. The irony is that the people who need to be shouting loudest are the residents of Miami-Dade County.
The Jan. 18 editorial, A matter of when, not if, pointed out that Miami is Ground Zero for the impacts from climate change. For whatever reason, the sea level is rising faster. For Miami, more than any great city in America, the question is one of salt intrusion and the destruction of the aquifer that supplies everyone’s drinking water.
With the flood-control plumbing system we have in place, a very small percentage of Lake Okeechobee overflow comes south through the Everglades. That’s where all of it used to go.
Everglades National Park is dying because it’s not getting enough water. The coastal estuaries are dying because they are getting too much water. Climate changes will make that worse.
With climate change, storms are increasing while annual rainfall decreases. There will be more droughts and more floods and less water to keep the Everglades wet.
Miamians need to think what it’s like when the ’Glades west of Miami are on fire and the wind is from the west. For old people and kids with asthma, it’s more than a nuisance. It’s a visit to the hospital emergency room.
If we don’t send more water south from the lake, the increased dry-season fires will burn the organic muck soils and lower the ground surface. The result will be a rising Florida Bay moving up Shark Valley Slough until Miami is surrounded by saltwater on three sides.
Moving water south from Lake Okeechobee will not stop the sea level from rising, but it will slow the process and give natural and manmade communities a chance to adapt.
In October of this year, the option to buy the key piece of U.S. Sugar land that can send the water south expires. You can read the details at https://sites.google.com/site/riverscrisis/.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. South Florida is looking the other way. History will pass judgment on those who do nothing. Then it will be too late. Miamians need to demand action.
Maggy Hurchalla, member, Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame, Stuart