Press Release Aug 13, 2018

Restoration Plans Must Maximize Freshwater Flow to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay

Florida Bay advocates are calling on government agencies to develop alternatives that maximize the amount of freshwater flowing into Everglades National Park and provide immediate benefits to the Bay.

Homestead, FL – Federal and state agencies will host a public meeting in Homestead this week to consider three alternatives for Florida Bay restoration – none of which adequately address the need for bringing more freshwater to Everglades National Park. Florida Bay advocates are calling on government agencies to immediately develop alternatives that maximize the amount of freshwater flowing into Everglades National Park and provide immediate benefits to the Bay.

The restoration projects up for discussion this week are among the first Everglades restoration projects proposed to improve the flow and distribution of water into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Authorized decades ago, these projects are essential to solving the ongoing water crisis plaguing Everglades National Park and Florida’s northern estuaries. Not one of the agencies’ preferred alternatives to operate these projects does enough to help Florida Bay. In fact, some alternatives send less water than is currently flowing to the Bay today.

“American taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on projects to restore Everglades National Park. Implementing a plan that withholds freshwater from Florida Bay is a misuse of restoration funds and will not provide the long-term relief Floridians desperately need,” said Cara Capp, Everglades restoration program manager for National Parks Conservation Association.

Collectively, our partner organizations ask the government to immediately develop operation alternatives that maximize the use of taxpayer-funded restoration infrastructure and specifically include the following operational protocols:

  • Send the maximum amount of fresh clean water under the new bridges on Tamiami Trail while preventing water from leaking out of the Everglades National Park to the east;

  • Prevent excess flood discharges to Manatee Bay and Barnes Sound; and

  • Implement the C-111 North Spreader project to improve the water flow south and deliver the promised benefits to Florida Bay.

Alternatives that do not implement these priority actions are neither maximizing the authorized use of restoration infrastructure like the new bridges, nor are they maximizing benefits to Florida Bay.

“We’ve examined the alternatives the government is considering for impacts to Florida Bay. They don’t go very far – some even make things worse,” said Dr. Thomas Van Lent, Everglades Foundation scientist. “We have an opportunity to make big improvements to the ecosystem but getting there will take bold action. The agencies need to go back and make benefits to Florida Bay the top priority of this restoration project.”

“Audubon scientists have been studying the needs of the Bay for nearly 80 years. Our science shows there is a direct link between the demise of Roseate Spoonbill nesting in Florida Bay and decreased freshwater flows to the Bay,” said Celeste De Palma, Everglades policy director for Audubon Florida. “The recipe to a healthy and vibrant Florida Bay involves sending a lot more freshwater to Florida Bay. Any plan that falls short of maximizing freshwater flows to Florida Bay is detrimental to the health of the Everglades and a disservice to the investment in restoration infrastructure. That’s simply unacceptable.”

“Florida’s estuaries are in crisis and pushing closer to their tipping points. Everglades restoration provides a light at the end of the tunnel for Florida’s $9.3 billion fishing industry which relies on clean water and healthy estuaries, said Capt. Daniel Andrews, executive director of Captains for Clean Water. “We must utilize all available tools to maximize desperately needed freshwater flows to Florida Bay which will also alleviate Lake Okeechobee discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.”

“More water, not less must flow into Florida Bay to secure the health, economy and resilience of Florida,” said Jose F. Barros, President of Tropical Audubon Society. “How is it that decades and nearly $1 billion later we still do not have this? Taxpayer investment in viable, sound projects that deliver the most freshwater to Florida Bay as the goal must be honored, not disrespected. There’s only one solution and that’s to get the water right.”

The public meeting will take place on Tuesday, August 14 at the John D. Campbell Agricultural Center, 18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL 33030 from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm. Public participation is encouraged and comments will begin at 11:00 am.

###

About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

About Audubon Florida: For more than a century, Audubon Florida has encouraged people to take care of the places that make Florida special. Using science to guide our work and birdlife to measure ecosystem health, Audubon works to protect land, water, and wildlife. Today, Audubon is Florida’s most influential conservation organization and leads efforts to preserve America’s Everglades, coastal bird habitats, and other special places. Audubon manages sanctuaries that cover thousands of acres along with two popular nature centers. Audubon also promotes stewardship and appreciation of public land and water so people may always experience and cherish Florida’s natural beauty.

About Captains for Clean Water: Captains for Clean Water is working to raise awareness of water mismanagement in Florida and to advance science-based solutions so our water resources will be healthy for future generations. Everglades restoration provides significant reductions in Lake Okeechobee discharges and provides desperately needed clean, fresh water to Florida Bay.

About the Everglades Foundation: The Everglades Foundation is dedicated to leading efforts to restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem. Since its founding in 1993 by a group of local outdoor enthusiasts, the Foundation has become a respected and important advocate for the sustainability of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.

About Tropical Audubon Society: Tropical Audubon Society endeavors to conserve and restore natural South Florida ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats through advocacy and education for the benefit of biological diversity and humanity itself.