This bill could save the Everglades, essentially taking it off "life support."
The Florida Senate voted last week to approve a bill that has been in the making for over 20 years now, ultimately saving the Everglades and stemming the toxic sludge that has been building up in the park for ages.
Everglades National Park is a system of forest and wetlands that are fed by a river and boasts itself as the largest tropical wilderness in the U.S. and as having the largest mangrove ecosystem on the western hemisphere. It’s home to dozens of endangered species, such as the Florida panther and West Indian manatee, and its protection is crucial for the survival these and many other species.
The bill, called SB 10, passed with flying colors in a 36-3 vote in favor of the construction of a 240,000 acre-feet (about 78 billion gallons) deep water reservoir which would be used to store and clean water from the Everglades of toxic discharge before being released back into the ecosystem. This plan was originally approved in 1994, but sugar companies strongly opposed it because it would have resulted in decreased sugar production with the loss of private land for the reservoir. The current bill uses 14,000 acres of state land instead.
“Southern storage is necessary to stop the toxic discharges and save the Everglades by giving it the clean water it so desperately needs,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the Senate sponsor of the bill. He said that it took 20 years to reach this point “because it’s hard to do but anything that’s hard to do is worthwhile.”
The toxic discharge he is referring to is the recent poisonous algae blooms caused by the state’s controlled water release from Lake Okeechobee into the national park that allows too much mineral and nutrient buildup. The most recent bloom forced Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency for four counties because of the level of toxicity. The blooms occur every few years and cause beaches to close and wildlife to die, including panthers and manatees that were found with high levels of mercury poisoning. The reservoir would instead gather the water and process it, filtering out the toxic properties, before releasing it back into the Everglades.
Everglades National Park has been described as “parched” and the brochure given to visitors explains that the system used to provide the park with water means the park is “on life support, alive but diminished.”
The House must also approve this bill by way of agreeing with the budget needed to make this happen, which will require half of the $1.5 billion to come from the state and the other half to come from the federal government.