Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Littlepage on FL environment "warning signs"
Ron Littlepage: Florida's environment is showing warning signs
By Ron Littlepage Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 3:49 pm | updated Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 4:40 pm
Florida’s precious environment is under assault, yet there is mostly silence when there should be clanging warning bells.
In the Panhandle, two rivers — the Flint and the Chattahoochee — merge when they cross into Florida from Georgia to form the Apalachicola River.
The Apalachicola empties into Apalachicola Bay when it reaches the Gulf Coast, creating a world-class fishery famous for its oysters, or at least it once was.
Last week, the national environmental group American Rivers named the Apalachicola-Chattachoochee-Flint River Basin the most endangered in the country in its annual ratings of the country’s rivers.
The culprit is Georgia and Atlanta, which are taking too much water from the basin to meet the demands of out-of-control growth there.
That has deprived the bay of the freshwater it needs to sustain a healthy estuary there. Without it, the bay is on the verge of collapse.
This is not new. The battle over the water among Florida, Georgia and Alabama, which also draws water from the basin, has gone on for decades.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the spigot, has mostly watched as the bay has declined.
The fight is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the bay that has sustained people for centuries is in danger.
In South Florida, hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee have been dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers because of fears the lake’s weakened dike will be overwhelmed by heavier than usual rains.
That dirty water has flowed into the normally clear, azure Gulf of Mexico around vacation hot spots like Sanibel Island, killing sea life, staining beaches and turning off tourists.
The same thing has occurred where the St. Lucie reaches the Atlantic Coast.
While Lake Okeechobee gets most of the attention and blame, septic tanks, in use even in many well-to-do neighborhoods, are also adding damaging nutrients to the waterways.
To the north of there, the Indian River Lagoon has been hit by a fish kill recently.
Called the brown tide, the algae has sucked oxygen out of the lagoon that fish need to survive, and large areas of critical sea grass beds have been smothered.
Although happening at the same time, the devastation in the Indian River Lagoon has nothing to do with Lake Okeechobee releases.
Too many septic tanks and storm water runoff carrying fertilizers and pesticides are damaging the lagoon, once one of the most diverse estuaries in the country.
As with Apalachicola Bay, the problems with the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon are not new, yet they persist.
In our own neighborhood, the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River is facing dangers of its own, from the proposed deep dredge of the river’s shipping channel to siphoning millions of gallons of water from the river daily to water lawns in Central Florida to polluted storm water runoff that flows from our streets and lawns into the river and its tributaries.
And our awesome springs are under stress from pollution and reduced flows, and in some cases are already dead.
Obviously, we have crammed too many people onto this fragile peninsula and in the process messed up the natural plumbing system, clearly illustrated by what has happened to the Everglades.
Add to that the denial of sea-level rise and climate change, and Florida’s future is bleak.
Some of the things we have done to this land are beyond repair, but improvements can be made to reclaim part of what Florida once was.
That will take action, not hand wringing, and leadership, which is currently lacking in Tallahassee.
One day it will be too late.
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Saturday, April 16, 2016 @ 2:49 pm
All the sins listed above by Mr. Littlepage were the result of government projects initiated by politicians using some man-made disaster as the reason for the action. Now he wants some more of such action. What's the definition of insanity ?
The poor septic tanks are always trotted out and a cause of nutrient pollution even though close scrutiny of various fields studies done on individual water bodies reveal otherwise. Nutrient pollution generally comes from municipal sewer systems in spite of claims by the municipalities to the contrary. Remember all NPDES reporting is done on the honor system and governments observe professional courtesy with one another. The Indian River Lagoon problems stem from the idea of trying to dredge and make four separate bodies into one, the canal flushing was just the coupe de grace. What happened to diverting all the excess waters to the south into the Everglades ?