Title: Anatomy of a Man-made Drought
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00002537/00001
 Material Information
Title: Anatomy of a Man-made Drought
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: Sports Illustrated
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Anatomy of a Man-made Drought, March 15, 1982
General Note: Box 10, Folder 22 ( SF Water Modification - 1981-83 ), Item 7
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00002537
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text
1 1 LI L,.

W rc-u 151 ,412-

Somebody did something about the
weather in Florida; now a looming
disaster demands that it be undone


O ver the past few weeks, a growing
number of Floridians have oeen
jolted by a warning from Arthur Mar-
shall, a 63-year-old ecologist who is
widely regarded as having the keenest in-
sights into that state's multiple environ-
mental problems. Marshall's dismaying
thesis is this: Drought conditions in Kis-
simmee Valley, which suffered a "once
in every 700 years drought" last yea are
going to get worse. Marshall asserts that
last year was not in fact a meteorological
aberration, but a predictable conse-
quence of the land development and the
drainage of wetlands in the Everglades
and the Kissimmee River basin that have
disrupted the normal rain cycle.
The gist of the problem, says Marshall,
is this: Before development changed the
.South Florida landscape on a huge scale,
the slowly moving sheet of water that an-
nually flowed from the Kissimmee River
basin south into Lake Okeechobee and
then spilled into the Everglades was the
key to the region's abundant rainfall.
During the rainy season, which runs
from June into September, the summer
sun would heat up this shallow sheet wa-
ter to approximately 14 C above its
nighttime temperature, and tremendous
amounts of water would ascend into the
atmosphere by evaporation and transpi-
ration from the lush plant life growing in
the marshy environment. By two in the
afternoon, the buildup in the atmosphere
was so great that heavy rain would fall.
Almost all the water that had risen from
the wetlands would come down again,
and with it rain from vapor that had
moved in over the peninsula from both

Draining and channelaztion of the Kislmmee buasin is drying up Ldi Okeechobee and
Florida's southem weandl (in ocher), destroying the trgger for the "rain machine "

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the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Now, how
ever, sheet-flow water isn't present ii
sufficient quantities to initiate the "rail
machine" the way it used to. As a conse
quence of the disruption to the hydrolog
ic cycle, fish and wildlife populations an
going to pot; the Everglades Nationa
Park is "on the brink of death" (to quot
a recent statement by Nathaniel P. Reed
Assistant Secretary of the Interior fo
Fish and Wildlife and National Parks ii
the Nixon and Ford administrations); th
$1 billion-a-year sugar industry is threat
ended not only with loss of trops but als
loss of farmland by fire and oxidation
and salt water intruding from the Atlan
tic can foul wells in the Biscayne Aqui
fer, the only natural source of potable
water for more than three million peopi
in Miami and other Gold Coast cities.
Recently the South Florida Water Man
agement District, which ordered a 259
cut in water use last year, announced i
might have to reduce use this year b
60%. In short, South Florida is i
a man-made meteorological, ecological
and economic box from which it will b
damned difficult to escape.


Marshall's thesis is taken very serious-
ly by scientists who have independently
investigated aspects of it in their own re-
search, some of which Marshal has
drawn upon to arrive at his overall con-
clusions. "That's a very true picture,"
says Garald G. Parker of Tampa, who
explored and named both the Biscayne
and Floridan aquifers while he was with
the U.S. Geological Survey and who lat-
er served as the chief hydrologist with
the Southwest Florida Water Manage-
ment District. "Man-made alterations
and drainage on this scale have certainly
accomplished these results. The Gulf
Coast is affected, too. It is a serious situ-
ation." Patrick Gannon, a meteorologist
who wrote a doctoral dissertation at the
University of Miami entitled "The Influ-
ence of Surface Properties and Clouds
on the South Florida Sea Breeze," says,
"We have introduced significant changes
ia the daily mesoscale local weather pat-
terns] in the last century. This entire cy-
cle has been altered, weakened and shift-
ed. It's radically different now than it
was in 1900, and it appears from all the
research that we're setting up a heat re-
gime rather than a rainy regime in the
summer period."
It finally rained heavily in South Flor-
ida last week, but the three to four inches
that fell in the interior were literally a
- drop in the bucket in a region where
i one-sixth of an inch of water evaporates
n into the air every day. Gannon attributes
- last week's rain to a cold front coming
- down from the north, a synoptic (large-
i scale) disturbance. "The basic problem is
I in the region's long-term summer rainfall
e mesoscale process," he says. "South
I, Florida is going to be faced with a long-
r term drought potential that is only tem-
n porarily alleviated by transitory synoptic
e disturbances, such as deep mid-latitude
- troughs in the Gulf of Mexico and tropi-
o cal storms."
i; Last week, state politicians were pay-
- ing heed to Marshall's thesis. State Sena-
- tor John Vogt, chairman of his cham-
e ber's Natural Resources Committee, had
e breakfast one morning in Tallahassee
s. with a party that included Johnny Jones,
- executive director of the 45,000-member
6 Florida Wildlife Federation and a close
it associate of Marshall's, who is a director-
y at-large for the FW.F Jones was in Tal-
n lahassee pushing for restoration of the
i Kissimmee River and its floodplain. Six
e years ago, he had successfully lobbied
through a bill calling for just that. Before

the once-meandering river was turned
into an aquatic highway by the state and
the US. Army Corps of Engineers in the
late 1950s, the Kissimmee played host to
one million waterfowl a year. "After
channelization, we counted just eight
ducks," says Jones. "Eight, as in one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Eight!" Channelization also ruined the
superb largemouth bass and bream fish-
ing, and with the wetlands gone, pastur-
ing cattle took to the river to cool off in
the summer heat. "A cow doesn't get out
of the water to take a crap," Jones says,
"and just one of them puts out wastes
equal to 18 people."
Although Senator Vogt was aware of
the rain-machine thesis, Jones went over
it briefly at breakfast and then pointed
out to the senator that last year only
71,000 acre-feet of water had passed
through the channelized river into Lake
Okeechobee, as compared with an aver-
age annual inflow of 1.2 million acre-feet
from 1935 to 1950. Lake Okeechobee,
which encompasses 730 square miles, is
the surface storage basin for South Flori-
da's water. It is now three feet lower
than it was at this time last year, and last
year is acknowledged as the worst in re-
corded history. Jones also told Vogt that
annual rainfall in St. Lucie County in
southeast Florida had declined from 68
inches in 1950 to 38 inches following the
draining of more than 50,000 acres of
Although the 1976 bill authorizing
restoration of the Kissimmee River basin
had passed, nothing had been done be-
cause the Corps was, in Jones's words,
"dragging its feet." Jones asked Vogt,
"John, if the feds don't get off their
butts, will you initiate legislation using
state funds from the Conservation and
Recreation Lands bill and the Save Our
Rivers bill to start filling that ditch?"
Vogt said he would. "Florida just
can't support unlimited development
and drainage of wetlands," the senator
said. "What frightens me is that all the
great deserts of the world lie at this lati-
tude. I just hope Florida won't become a
desert." (One development that need not
frighten Vogt is the new TPC golf course
described on the preceding pages. Mar-
shall, who has visited the course, says the
land has been used with the ecological
health of the area in mind.)
That afternoon Jones conferred with
Governor Bob Graham, briefing him on
Marshall's findings. In that meeting Gra-

~C_ I I_ I
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AL. A i A I 1 ,, I 0

FLtM 4 nIOn fr continued

ham reaffirmed his support for restora-
tion of the Kissimmee. "The old Bob
Graham is returning," Jones said after-
ward. "He was an outstanding conserva-
tion senator. When he became governor,
he appeared to have lost interest in the
environment, but in the last year he has
taken the leadership role on issues like
the Kissimmee. We appreciate that."
The next day Jones, Marshall and Nat
Reed drove to Clewiston on the south
shore of Lake Okeechobee to discuss res-
toration of the Kissimmee with John B.
Boy, the president of U.S. Sugar Corp.,
and Dalton Yancey, general manager of
the Florida Sugar Cane League. Environ-
mentalists and sugar growers have often
gone head:to-head on issues, but, as
Jones put it, they were all in the same
boat now because of the drought, and he
wanted their support for restoration of
the Kissimmee. Last year Florida sur-
passed Hawaii as the No. I state in sugar
production, with more than a million
tons. Based almost exclusively in south-
ern Florida, the sugar industry farms
349,000 acres of black muck that was
formed by 5,000 years of decaying wet-
lands vegetation. If this muck doesn't get
an abundant supply of water it dries out
like talcum powder and burns when
touched with a match. Last fall drought
conditions were so bad, the fearful grow-
ers drew on this spring's allotment of wa-
ter from the South Florida Water Man-
agement District in order to be able to
plant the current crop. They had to gam-
ble in doing that, because they might
have lost not only the crop but also their
soil to fire. Now, there is fear of reduced
yields this year because the growers will
have to depend almost solely on rain; the
allotment of water left for them in Lake
Okeechobee is not enough to meet the
growers' irrigation needs.
After the meeting, Boy and Yancey
remained uncommitted to restoration of
the Kissimmee, but Jones has hopes that
the growers at least won't oppose it. Boy
and Yancey were also skeptical about
Marshall's rain-machine thesis, but as
Marshall said, "If I were the president of
U.S. Sugar, I'd sure as hell wonder why
none of my scientists had told me about
the importance of the Kissimmee River
basin to rain in South Florida. The crop
depends on rain, whether it falls on the
land or comes from Lake Okeechobee as
irrigation water."
Marshall's deep involvement with
the Florida environment began in 1960

when he became the state administrator
for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He left Fish and Wildlife in 1970 to de-
vote his time to the study of Florida eco-
systems. He was a professor at the Uni-
versity of Miami and later at the Univer-
sity of Florida before becoming a private
consultant in 1974.
Systems is the key word for Marshall.
"If you don't synthesize knowledge, sci-
entific journals become spare-parts cata-
logues for machines that are never
built," he says. "Until isolated and sepa-
rated pieces of information are assimilat-
ed by the human mind, we will continue

water is rainfall, and it only comes in a
four- to five-month period. You have to
extend the life of that water. That's what
the system did originally. It was one of
the most efficient systems you could
imagine on the face of the earth. Now we
have to repair it."
According to Marshall, the upper Kis-
simmee lakes are in trouble. Lake Toho-
pekaliga receives 20 million gallons a day
of treated sewage effluent, and its sport
fishery is headed for collapse. To an ex-
tent, this lake has acted as a buffer for
the lower lakes, but this cannot continue
indefinitely. Already Lake Okeechobee

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diew nWd pMC e mmeungr of 1e d1,m1ttn nr1 .

to rattle around aimlessly. I am as good a
diagnostician of ecosystems as any good
medical diagnostician is of human be-
ings, and I'm not on any damn ego trip
when I say that. I read medical journals
to see how medical diagnosticians work.
Sometimes I wish I didn't have the
knowledge that I do, because I can get
pretty damn glum."
To Marshall, the Kissimmee lakes
near Orlando, the lower Kissimmee Riv-
er, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades
are all a single system. "Not enough peo-
ple realize it's all of a piece," he says. "I
didn't invent the whole system. I was
able to observe it long enough to under-
stand its processes and to recognize how
they work together, the sheet flow, the
muck, wetlands vegetation, recharge of
the Biscayne Aquifer and the production
of marine fisheries. The only source of

is becoming oxygen deficient. South of
the lake, agriculture is in obvious trou-
ble, as is the Biscayne Aquifer. Last year
the South Florida Water Management
District had to pump 325,000 acre-feet
of water from the lake into the coastal
canals to fend off saltwater intrusion.
A soon-to-be-published paper by Jim
Kushlan of the Everglades National Park
staff discloses that the population of
freshwater wadingbirds in the park has
declined by at least 90% over the past 40
years, with decreased water flow and loss
of wetlands playing critical roles. Chief
hydrologist Dr. Peter Rosendahl reports
that the park will shortly make a request
to the South Florida Water Management
District and the Corps for an additional
450,000 acre-feet of water, more than
double what the park has been getting

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nIAMA OROUSO continued

Florida Bay and the Ten Thousand Is-
lands area to the northwest are suffering
greatly. "Fifty species of marine fish and
shellfish utilize the shallow water of the
lower Everglades." Marshall says. "The
hatching is timed to coincide with the
start of the rainy season in June. The
snook hatch in the new moon in June,
and that's it. The snook is a classic case
of dependency on the sheet flow. They
spawn in the saltwater passes in the Ten
Thousand Islands area. After the eggs
hatch, the larvae move up toward fresh
water, and they're always in the top half
inch of the water column. They go into
the shallow sheet-flow water and stay in
the Everglades through the winter and
feed. There used to be a plentiful food
supply delivered to them by the sheet
flow. It was such a natural time clock.
Then in the spring, when the snook were
five or six inches long, they would come
back down. But now that's all changed.
We have cut the shallow-water acreage
in the Everglades in half, and we have

Before and after The channelized river
(right)onm by an old Kissmmee meander.

also cut the time in half. Instead of the
juvenile snook having nine to 11 months
in sheet flow, it is down to four or five
"During World War II," Marshall
continues, "the state allowed commer-
cial fishermen to use huge seines for
snook, and in one set of a net they could
get up to 5,000 fish, averaging, two
pounds apiece. About six weeks ago, I
went over to the Department of Natural
Resources marine lab in St. Pete to see
Dr. Gerard Bruger, who has done six
years of tagging studies of snook, and he
told me that the totaladult population of
snook in the Ten Thousand Islands area
is only about 30;000. That ain't nothing !
Bruger calls the snook an endangered
Last December, guides from Islamo-
rada in the Keys and fishermen working
with the American League of Anglers, a
national organization of sports fisher-
men, conducted a semiscientific study by
fishing Florida Bay intensively. The bay
was once one of the most productive
bodies of water in the world, but a fol-
low-up report by the A.L.A. stated that
the 810-square-mile bay has been hit so
hard "that it's a question of whether or
not it can ever be restored." There were
few redfish, sea trout were even scarcer,
and no bonefish at all were caught.
The A.L.A. also noted that commercial
catches of silver mullet had declined pre-
cipitously, dropping from just under 2.5
million pounds in 1975 to less than
188,000 pounds in 1980.
Marshall believes that the fishing can
be restored in Florida Bay, but radical
change will be required, beginning with
restoration of the floodplain of the Kis-
simmee. Basic to all South Florida, he
says. is the reinitiation of the "rain ma-
chine." Despite backing from many sci-
entists, Marshall is well aware that his
thesis has critics, including Jack Maloy,
the executive director of the South
Florida Water Management District, and
Dr. Patrick McCaffrey, staff director of
the Kissimmee Coordinating Council. In
fact, Marshall takes heart from the criti-
cism. "I was ridiculed so many times in
the past when I turned out to be right,
I've gotten to the point where if I don't
get ridiculed, I wonder if I'm doing
something wrong," he says.
Even though Marshall had put togeth-
er the South Florida ecosystem in his
mind 10 years ago, he didn't realize the
full significance of the rain machine until

last year, when he found a copy of an
out-of-print report, Water Resources of
Southeastern Florida, written by Parker
and other hydrologists and published in
1955 by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Marshall began comparing data from it
with other studies, including Gannon's
dissertation and a 1972 report by a plan-
ning engineer at the South Florida Water
Management District, on whose board
Marshall served in 1972 and '73. Last
Jan. 12 in Palm Beach, Marshall gave a
speech on his findings at a symposium on
the Everglades, and two weeks later he
had a meeting with Governor Graham.
Parker and Gannon are all for the res-
toration of the Kissimmee, but Gannon,
who spent eight years as a meteorologist
with a federal task force doing research
on cloud seeding before becoming a pro-
fessor at Lyndon State College in Ver-
mont last year, points out that the rain
machine of South Florida has been per-
manently impaired in part by "the cap-
ping of both coasts with concrete at the
same time the Kissimmee was going
down the tube," which retards the
evapo-transpiration process.
If Gannon had it within his power, he
would put an immediate stop to develop-
ment. For instance, he would reflood
Golden Gate Estates, a huge tract of land
east of Naples that was drained but never
built on. "To call for cloud seeding or
water conservation is not the same as do-
ing all-out research on the causes or po-
tential causes of the problem." Gannon
says. "The most reliable and sensible
way to demonstrate the effect of surface
alterations is through numerical model-
ing. You can't observe rainfall in 1900.
but you can numerically simulate 1900,
the present time and what is likely to
happen in the year 2000 or 2030 at the
present rate of land alteration." Gannon
believes that it is important that Florida
do this so the public can realize what has
been happening to the state.
Marshall agrees. The vitality of the
state is at stake, and as Jones says, "Art
Marshall is more than an ecologist. He's
a prophet. He has been right every time
when he has called the shots. The South
Florida Management District has been
light-years behind him in knowledge and
understanding of the system. If Marshall
had been wrong once, I might not have
the faith I have in him, but he has been
right, right, right, and the people and
politicians had damn well better listen to
what he says." U

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