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GOVERNOR'S CONFERENCE ON WATER MANAGEMENT IN SOUTH FLORIDA
FINAL DRAFT FOR PLENARY SESSION
There is a water crisis in South Florida today. This crisis has
long-range and short-range aspects. Every major water area in South
Florida basin--Everglades National Park, the conservation areas, Lakq
Okeechobee and the Kissimmee Valley--are steadily deteriorating in
quality from a variety of polluting sources that are detailed below.
The quantity of water, though potentially adequate for, today's demand,
cannot now be managed effectively over wet-dry cycles to assure a
minimum adequate water supply in extended drought periods.
WATER SUPPLY QUANTITY
To initiate an action program to solve problems in the area of water
quantity, a careful assessment must be made of water demands linked to
projected growth. For an adequate long range water supply, the State
must have an enforceable comprehensive land and water use plan. This
plan must be developed immediately. It must be designed to limit
population increases--with their attendant demands on the water
supply--to a level that will insure a quality environment. Such a
management plan would include as its first objective a complete inven-
tory and assessment of long-range water resources. The controlling
factor in this water resource assessment should be the water supply
that can be anticipated in times of shortest supply. The result of
this planning effort would be a water budget system. based on available
resources. This system would serve as a limitation on allowable
WATER SUPPLY QUALITY
Water quality is a far graver problem in the long run than is water
quantity. The quality of the water in the South Florida water basin
is deteriorating. This deterioration stems from the introduction into
the basin of pesticides, herbicides, animal and industrial wastes,
heavy metals, salt water, sewage, and heated waters. Channelization
has contributed substantially to the process of deterioration. Water
quality in the basin may be restore and maintained by:
1. Zoning or acquiring the flood plains at the upper end of the basin;
2. Reflooding the Kissimmee marshes;
3. Initiating a comprehensive treatment program to treat pollutants at
the source before they enter the water system. This will necessitate
initiation of treatment procedures in agricultural areas and up-
grading existing procedures in urban areas;
4. Phasing out back pumping into Lake Okeechobee, or requiring effective
treatment at the source before back pumping.
There should be no further draining of wetlands for any purpose. A
minority position held that limited drainage of wetlands to serve a
clear public interest, under strict controls, may be justified. As an
initial step in controlling the grainage of wetlands, it is recommended
that Chapter 298 of the Florida Statutes be repealed. Wetlands are the
most biologically productive of all lands. The need to preserve them
stems from their value for recreation, water storage, aquatic productiv-
ity, cleansing of nutrients, and for aquifer recharge.
A program should be initiated to reflood the marshes of the Kissimmee
Valley and agricultural lands not presently in production below Lake
Okeechobee. The i ial efforts should be pilot projects that can
provide a clearer assessment of the benefits and techniques of reflooding.
It is crucial to reverse the proce-s of the steady loss of muck. Re-
flooding is the primary method for accomplishing this objective. This
program should include the acquisition and consolidation of lands by
the State in selected areas north of Conservation Area Three and/or
"near Conservation Area Two as a major pilot program. Its purpose shall
be to determine the effect of controlling water levels, filtering
pollutants, and recycling wastes to build up muck soils.
Muck conservation programs should be coordinated and pursued immediately
by the Flood Control District and Trustees of the Internal Improvement
Trust Fund. Even if mucklands are not used for agriculture, their pre-
servation and restoration are necessary to maintaining the ecological
balance of the South Florida basin.
Reestablishment of sawgrass may be the best solution to replenishment
of the mucklands. However, other approaches should be considered on
an experimental basis, including the use of organic material such as
The State and appropriate regional agencies must develop a comprehensive
land and water use plan with enforcement machinery to limit population.
This is especially crucial in the South Florida region. The population
level must be one that can be supported by the available natural re-
sources, especially water, in order to sustain a quality environment.
A State comprehensive land and water use plan would include an assess-
ment of the water quality and water quantity. Moreover, it would set
density controls on further development by regions and sub-regions.
This recommendation presumes that there is a limit to the number of
people which the South Florida basin can support and at the same time
maintain a quality environment.
Localized ground water problems are common in south Florida, but they
are especially severe in South Dade County, Naples and Fort Myers.
Ground water contamination and depletion problems include salt water
intrusion, uncontrolled drilling of wells, drainage well pollution,
septic tanks, and sanitary land fills.
Solutions to ground water problems include:
A. A state drilling code requiring licensing of well drillers;
B. Purchase or zoning of lands to protect recharge areas;
C. Pluging of abandoned artesian wells;
D. Installation of secondary controls in major canals to hold higher
heads of water east of the conservation areas;
E. Construction of additional salt water intrusion control facilities,
according to a salinity control line established along the entire
South Florida Coast.
Water quality, quantity, and development controls described elsewhere
in this report also will improve ground water conditions in the basin.
The South Florida water resources can be understood only by a consider-
ation of the entire area commencing with the Kissimmee Valley chain of
Lakes in the north, extending southward through Lake Okeechobee and
the Everglades including the Big Cypress. Any significant change in
water quality or quantity in one part of thq total area must be con-
sidered in light of its effects on the rest of the system.
The Kissimmee Valley
Pollutants entering the Kissimmee Valley have cumulative adverse effect
on water quality in Lake Okeechobee. The Kissimmee Lakes and marshes
should be restored to their historic conditions and levels to the
greatest extent possible in order to improve the quality of the water
entering Lake Okeechobee.
Action should be taken to restore fish resources and wildlife habitats.
Contamination by pastured livestock must be reduced. Techniques should
be investigated to increase restoration to the natural condition of se-
lective areas by use of advanced waste disposal and composting materials.
recognizing that lake Okeechobee is the hub of water quantity and quality
$n South Florida, the most important and over-riding consideration
should be not only to maintain the present quality of the lake but also
to enhance it. Specific consideration should be given to assure that
all water inputs into Lake Okeechobee are of high quality.
Two primary inputs which could enhance the quality are (1) reflooding
of the Kissimmee Valley and (2) assuring that only high quality water
is back pumped into the lake. In addition, we should consider the
following ways to assure water of high quality in the lake:
a. an appropriate monitoring and enforcement program;
b. allowing a maximum high water level mark of seventeen and one-
c. allowing no cattle inside the diked area of the lake;
d. all chemical control of aquatic weeds should give way to mehani-
cal harvesting, and;
e. nutrient removal by periodic commercial harvesting of the lake's
extensive fish population with the exception of large mouth bass.
Everglades Outside the Park
Everything possible should be done to retain and enhance those areas in
their natural condition, and there is a need for continuous monitoring
and control of these water resources since they provide the supplies to
total South Florida area, including urban areas. A specific objective
should be to maintain and restore the sawgrass.
It is important that land use controls be established immediately in
the Big Cypress to control development and to preserve this area for
the public benefit. Other potentially valuable areas that need pro-
tection are the Shark River Slough and the general area near Canal III.
Everglades National Park
We should attempt to maintain the water quality and quantity of the
Park adequate for the purpose for which it was created. All exotic
plants and animal should be controlled and eliminated in the Park and
throughout the Everglades area.
SHORT TERM PROBLEMS
An inter-agency committee should be established to consider short term
water management problems. The purpose of this committee shall be to
develop an ecologically sound body of guidelines and policy to be
followed in the resolution of short term problems of the region.
Further, there should be an educational program to alert the public to
the possibilities and consequences of water shortage.
Fire Prevention and Control
Through programmed burning maintain an approximation of the original
fire regime of the area. There should be controlled burning to protect
the natural plant and animal systems and to prevent undesirable build
up of plant materials. Mar should be excluded from critical areas in
times of drought. Fire Law q would be strictly enforced.
Intrusion, of Salt Water
To prevent the intrusion of salt water within the coastal areas, the
fresh water head should be maintained as high as feasible. When a
water shortage is anticipated, restriction of water use will be neces-
sary in order to maintain this head of fresh water during the drought.
Temporary dams should be built on canals when necessary, with an emer-
gency system of permitting established to allow construction of such dams.
During droughts, navigation service should be restricted in order to
reduce loss of fresh water.
Canals should not be constructed which would allow salt water intrusion
inland of the salt water line. Appropriate local laws should be
established and enforced.
Establishment of Water Priorities
Since there is competition for water by agriculture, urban areas,
esturaies and the National Park it is recommended that the total water
supply be considered a common resource. Survival of the entire South
Florida eco-system, without sacrificing any segment, should be the prime
consideration. Maintaining the head of fresh water should be given
first priority. The inter-agency committee should propose priorities in
its over-all plan.
Regulation of Water Use in Cities
A model water use priority ordinance should be developed for use by
all affected areas, establishing a series of consumptive controls,
based on the degree of water shortage.
Desirability of Cloud Seeding
Cloud seeding is not considered a short term solution. There was a
division of opinions on the desirability of cloud seeding, primarily
due to a lack of knowledge. There is an opinion that cloud seeding may
be more effective in producing a water supply during the wet season to
mitigate low water supplies during the dry season. However, further
research is needed.
Schedules of Water Levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Conservation
The inter-agency committee should develop and maintain close coordination
between the Army Corps of Engineers, the Flood Control District, the
Game Commission and the Department of the Interior to establish water
levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Conservation Areas as well as
establishing delivery to the Conservation Areas and to Everglades
MANAGING AGENCY FOR THE SOUTH FLORIDA REGION
Water management must be coordinated at the State and regional levels.
At the State level there must be an agency or board that has all power
necessary to development and implementation a comprehensive land and
water use plan for the State. The agency or board, whichever it may
be, should report to the Governor.
A regional agency for South Florida shall be established. It shall
develop and implement a regional comprehensive land and water use
plan in accordance with the State plan. The regional board shall be
composed of nine (9) members appointed by the Governor. The board
shall represent the diverse interests in the region. Three year
staggered terms shall be used.
The geographical boundary of the South Florida regional land and water
management agency shall be the Kissimmee River Basin, the Okeechobee
Basin, the Everglades, and the Big Cypress Watershed.
The regional land and water management agency shall be responsible
for managing water quality and quantity for the long term benefit of
the environment of the region and the State. Specifically, the agency
shall be responsible for such activities as drainage, water use, well
drilling, land use, esturaies, watershed management, flood control,
and soil conservation.
The regional agency shall have all powers necessary to develop and
implement the regional land and water use plan including, but not limited
to, taxing powers, eminent domain, and police powers such as inter-
vention to protect the environment, permits for drainage districts
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and canals, subpoena and investigative powers, and research properly
coordinated with other agencies.
The regional agency shall be required by the state to relate to and
coordinate with duly constituted state and regional organizations
operating in other functional areas.
Finally, the conference recognizes that present funding for environ-
mental protection must be enlarged to accomplish the common goal of
protecting the economic and environmental values of this State.
The citizens who have participated in this Governor's
Conference on Water Management in South Florida in
plenary session assembled acknowledge and applaud the
foresight and courage demonstrated by Governor Reuben
O' D Askew in convening this meeting and offer their
continuing support in accomplishing the objectives
set forth in this statement.
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