A Florida Strategy for
Environmental and Economic Stability
Meeting our Obligations to Ourselves and our Posterity
Over the past four decades, several large scale “restoration” projects have been implemented in critical environmental areas in Florida, including the Everglades, Lake Apopka, and the Indian River Lagoon.
Most notable has been the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), launched when Congress approved the plan to restore America’s Everglades under the Water Resources Development Act of 2000.
CERP, along with other Florida "restoration" projects, is centered around a compromise between short-term economic concerns and long-term environmental protection. However, the plan was built upon the belief that existing agricultural and development policies were of paramount importance.
This approach did not address to any great extent the interdependency of environmental concerns and economic policy.
As a result, recent environmental degradation in the CERP area threatens not only property values, but is also affecting one of Florida's prime economic driver, the tourism industry. In addition, human health and the survival of many species of fish and wildlife are threatened. These issues are critical not only to the welfare and quality of life of Florida residents and tourists, but to the life and welfare of generations to come - to our posterity.
Short-term economic gains without consideration of long-term economic impacts should no longer be deemed acceptable.
The idea that environmental protection and rehabilitation must cause economic pain is a short-sighted approach at best.
In fact, economic benefits associated with environmental protection and rehabilitation can outweigh any short-term difficulties and deliver a better return on the dollar.
Rhetoric such as “job-killing regulations” should not be used to bias public opinion without evaluating and comparing “job-killing deregulation.” For example, large scale development projects may deliver short-term economic benefit for workers and investors, but also cause long-term damage, reduction in property values and loss of jobs in the tourism industry.
Needed is a revised planning and development strategy in order to ensure long-term economic and environmental stability for ourselves and our posterity.
Proposed elements of this strategy:
1. Consider eminent domain or negotiated direct purchase to secure and rehabilitate lands critical to economic and environmental stability. An obvious example is the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Purchase of these 650,000 (+/-) acres would allow development and implementation of a long-term plan for returning at least a portion of the EAA to a viable Everglades type marsh, while dedicating other areas to needed water storage and extension of the boundaries of Lake Okeechobee.
2. With any eminent domain action or negotiated land purchase, include a long-term, objective and comprehensive economic analysis of the present dynamic and a proposed reclaimed system.
For example, an economic review of the rehabilitation of the EAA would include
a detailed evaluation of the economic benefits associated with sugar cultivation.
a comparison of the benefits of sugar cultivation versus the benefits of programs which establish ecological stability as related to a more robust, sustainable tourist economy; higher property values; development of new agricultural practices more compatible with environmental protection; innovative water treatment programs, and enhanced fisheries and recreational opportunities.
the economic impact of the fixing of sugar prices.
the economic and health impact of excess sugar consumption.
An economic evaluation of benefits which would result from restoring the EAA and associated flows include:
long-term high-value job creation.
an expected increase in property values.
increased recharge to the Biscayne Aquifer.
increase in tourism related to improved water quality and fish production.
effective recovery and recycling of phosphorus.
reduced carbon footprint
protection of human health
3. Economic evaluations of similar scope and intent as noted in Item 3 should be required for any proposed environmental disruption. Environmental rehabilitation must also be designed with an adequate transitional plan.
4. Rehabilitative actions should consider removal of existing infra-structure and reclamation of critical habitat. For example, the design and implementation of a controlled breach within the Okeechobee Dike might be considered, along with adding additional dikes around population centers. This would permit excess flows to move south through a restored EAA and into the Shark River Slough and the Everglades. Attendant with this action would be the placement of a sustainable treatment system between this breach and the restored EAA to ensure water quality meets Everglades’ standards.
5. Solicit participation by the private sector through long-term guaranteed payback programs which provide payments for water quality improvement. This may include institutional purchase of removed nutrients on a “per pound” basis—removal meaning actual capture, processing and out-of-basin reuse, or to a limited extent, in-basin reuse. Programs such as this could stimulate the development of new agri-industries which benefit environmental rehabilitation while creating a diversity of new jobs.
6. For many of the lakes in Florida which are stressed from heavy nutrient loading and accumulation (e.g. Lake Okeechobee), place multiple kidney-type treatment systems to remove, recover and reuse sediment stored nutrients (legacy nutrients), while also continuing to reduce loads from the contributing watershed. It is anticipated with effective incentives such a program could be enhanced by private sector involvement (see Item 5).
7. To the extent practical transition away from the widespread use of herbicides and increased use of mechanical harvesting of aquatic plants from waterways. Conduct meaningful bioassays on all pesticides and herbicides which are targeted for application, to include any associated moieties, adjuvants and surfactants used in their delivery. These bioassays would include beneficial algal species, such as the green microalgae Selenastrum capricornutum, in addition to the vertebrate and invertebrate animal species typically used in such bioassays.
8. Fund recovered nutrient buy-back programs and regional stormwater utilities through expansive Authorities, with the right to impose fees based upon pollutant contributions.
9. Encourage, fund, develop and implement programs that reduce the impact of sea level rise associated with global climate change.
10. Encourage, fund, develop and implement programs that reduce threats to human health and safety, including the management of human activities associated with air pollution and water pollution. This would include expanding research, management and ultimate reduction of cyanobacteria blooms and red-tide events.
11. Eliminate the hunting of critical species such as the black bear, and use eminent domain or negotiated direct purchase to secure lands which would allow expansion and connection of habitat for these species. Providing such habitats and habitat corridors will encourage species diversity and an improved predator-prey balance, as well as a higher degree of system stability.
12. Back-fill canals as appropriate to recover historical flow patterns.
13. Provide subsidies to farms, commercial enterprises, individuals and industries which demonstrate sequestration of greenhouse gases or which use phosphorus and nitrogen recycled from impaired surface and ground water.
14. Encourage and provide incentives for the replacement of highly subsidized lawns and landscaping with native landscaping and xeriscaping (i.e. low water requirements).
15. In situations in which water quality standards including Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) have not been achieved, consider restrictions on future development programs.
16. Consider placing TMDL compliance as a condition within Comprehensive Land Management Plans.
17. In counties where septic tanks are at a density of more than one per acre, consider restrictions on future development programs. Consider placing septic tank removal from high density areas, and replacement with effective regional wastewater systems, as a condition within Comprehensive Land Management Plans.
18. Using good engineering practices and sound scientific rationale, design and implement combined wetland/open water impoundments as emulations of historical floodplains.
19. Reconsider road design in critical floodplain areas, where such roads would be impediments to necessary flow patterns or would interfere with wildlife corridors. This would include the possibility of replacing stretches of existing roads with elevated roads and bridges.
20. Purchase through eminent domain or negotiated direct purchase mineral rights within South Florida, and grant to traditional aboriginal indigenous people their rightful use of lands as granted by past agreements and treaties, without interference or unauthorized use or entry by others. Among these areas would be the Big Cypress National Preserve and contiguous lands as might be negotiated with the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples.
21. Encourage, fund, develop and implement programs that promote reduction, recovery, and recycling of solid waste, and innovative methods and materials to eliminate non-biodegradable materials such as plastics.
22. Encourage, fund, develop and implement programs that promote regional scale application of renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind, biofuels) - and the sequestration of greenhouse gases, while reducing fossil fuel consumption.
Florida’s critical environments are vital to a healthy and sustainable economy and a good quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
It is neither morally acceptable, nor legally defendable to knowingly damage, disrupt or destroy elements of our natural world in the interest of short-term financial gain at the expense of our future generations.
Rehabilitation plans must be based upon scientific evidence and lessons learned from earlier mistakes.
Our lands and waters must be protected, rehabilitated and sustained for ourselves and our posterity.