Letters to the Editor

Buy land to protect water supply

I want to honor the memory of Miami resident Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who was a staunch advocate and defender of the Everglades. She would have been 125 years old on April 7.

On behalf of the city of Miami and its more than 400,000 residents, I recently wrote letters to Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, detailing my strong support for the acquisition of land currently under option within the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) before the option expires in October.

The University of Florida Senate Report on sending water south identified the need for additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee to significantly reduce the volumes of polluted water entering the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers; and, most important, recommended that the state acquire land within the EAA on which it already has an option.

As a public servant, I know the importance of listening to the constituents’ concerns, especially on issues like these, which have such widespread and damaging effects. I know the governor, Senate president and House speaker can identify with this as well. We must do everything in our power to put an end to the wasteful and harmful practice of discharging fresh water to tide.

Enhancing Florida’s water supply, restoring America’s Everglades and protecting the health of our rivers and coastal estuaries, including Florida Bay, are vital to securing our economic future.

The need for additional storage is clear. The time to act is now.

The South Florida Water Management District has an existing contract to acquire land that is ideally located to build a reservoir within the EAA as was envisioned in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The EAA reservoir will benefit from, and enhance, the Central Everglades Planning Project and Restoration Strategies.

This reservoir, authorized by Congress in 2000, is vitally needed to meet the water-supply needs of the natural environment and other users, reduce the risk to wildlife and provide water storage to protect coastal and Everglades estuaries.

But the option expires on Oct. 12. The “Lost Summer” of 2013 damaged Florida’s economy and environment and devastated the quality of life in many parts of our region. Therefore, I urge the governor, Sen. Gardiner and Rep. Crisafulli not to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We need a permanent water-storage solution. Their leadership is needed to seize this opportunity to protect Florida families and execute the option to immediately acquire 48,600 acres of land in the EAA.

Tomás Regalado, mayor, Miami