Conversation with Mike Gannon and Art Marshall

Material Information

Conversation with Mike Gannon and Art Marshall
Series Title:
Conversation (Television program)
Marshall, Arthur R., 1919-1985 ( Interviewee )
Gannon, Michael 1927-2017 ( Interviewer )
WUFT (Television station: Gainesville, Fla.)
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
30 minutes


Subjects / Keywords:
Kissimmee-Okeechobee Watershed (Fla.)
Environmental protection -- Florida.
Hydrology -- Florida
Restoration ecology -- Florida
Everglades (Fla.)
Marshall, Art
Gannon, Michael
University of Florida


Mike Gannon interviews environmental activist Art Marshall. Marshall discusses the impact of the channelization of the Kissimmee River on the Everglades as well as other harmful Corps of Engineers projects. He talks about the importance of the Everglades' natural sheet flow and what its destruction has done to the ecology of South Florida. He also talks about conservation efforts and Florida's environmental movement.
Additional Physical Form:
Produced from VHS copy.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:
MS Coll 128


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From Gainesville, Florida.

Hello, I'm Mike Gannon,

and this is conversation Dr.

Arthur Marshall is a former state

administrator of the United States

Fish and Wildlife Service,

a former professor

at the University of Miami

and here at the University of Florida.

Now retired, he lives

in nearby Interlochen.

In point of fact, however, Art

Marshall has not retired.

He has become a prophet,

a modern day Jeremiah,

if you will, pronouncing woe

unto Florida with all its works

and pumps.

And suddenly people are listening.

People like Governor Bob Graham

and the scientific community

and even writers and editors

from Sports Illustrated magazine

recently, Johnny Jones,

executive director of the Florida

Wildlife Federation, said

Art Marshall is a prophet.

He has been right every time

when he has call the shots.

If Marshall had been wrong once,

I might not have the faith

that 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.

We'll find out what Art

Marshall is saying

when I return in a moment.


live presents conversation

from the University of Florida,

a discussion of social, political,

scientific and religious

issues of the day.

Your host is Dr.

Michael Vigano, professor of history

and ethics and assistant

dean of the College of Liberal

Arts and Sciences

at the University of Florida.

Art, welcome to a conversation.

Thank you, Mike. Glad to be here.

Now let me see if I

have your message straight.

I've listened to the prophecy

and it seems to go something like this,

that in the southern part

of the peninsula of Florida,

there is an ecosystem

that has many parts.

It starts with the Qassemi

Lakes around Orlando,

then moves south and sheet of water

or what used to be a sheet of water

through the Kissimmee River

Basin to Lake Okeechobee,

then southward into the river of grass

we call the Everglades.

And that a number of things

have been done to sheet water

that is thin surface layers of water

that have affected the rain machine

that dumps so much water

on the southern part of the state

and makes it habitable by the

three million plus people who live

in Miami and the Gold Coast

just to take the Atlantic portion

of South Florida, for an example.

Among other things, I understand that the

Kissimmee River Basin

has been channelized.

It has been deepened

so that much of the sheet water

has been drained off

of the marshes into the deep river

and no longer evaporates

into the atmosphere to initiate

what you call the rain machine.

Also, if I understand you correctly,

much of the development is in

South Florida has similarly drained

what otherwise would be marshy lands,

abundant sheet water from which

evaporation could generate rain

that is desperately needed

for wildlife or fisheries

for the recharging

of the Biscayne Aquifer,

which is the only source of potable water

for the Gold Coast.

And you foresee,

if corrective measures

are not adequately taken,

a major disaster

for life in the southern

part of our state.

Is that a fair rendering, though?

Not very sophisticated of your message?

Yes, I think that's

quite accurate, actually,

in its natural state.

The Everglades system

had as an outstanding characteristic

the ability to move

water to the south that fell on the land,

but to move it down at such a slow rate

that it was almost incomprehensible.

I used to go into the middle

of the Everglades twenty five years ago

and sit for hours trying to determine

if I could see the water move,

the great sheet of water,

which was characteristic,

so characteristic of the lower

Kissimmee floodplain

and also in the southern Everglades.

All of that massive land

lying south of Lake Okeechobee,

all the way down

into Everglades National Park,

had this remarkable sheet of water,

never more than five or six feet deep

in the southern Everglades,

50 miles wide, with a southern movement

at a rate of an average of about

20 feet in twenty four hours.

And that is extremely slow.

The purpose of construction

of the canals, of course, was to expedite

the flow really out of the interior basin

and into the title waters of the state,

all the way from Fort

Myers on the West Coast,

around the tip of the peninsula

and up to the St.

Lucie estuary at Martin County

on the East Coast.

Those canals did, in fact,

speed that flow of water and of course,

reduced the water levels

by about five feet in the central

basis of the Everglades and narrowed

the southern Everglades River of grass

from about 50 to 60 miles

and with 20 or 25 miles

and with the Corps of Engineers know

all of the long term effects

that would come from channelizing

the Qassemi River

of that action did take place

in the beginning of the 50s, did it not,

to deepen that river?

No, the Qassemi is really channelization,

is really much more recent than that.

The works were accomplished

from about 1965 to 1971.

So we're talking about an event

that was concluded 11 years ago

from now that's really

quite, quite recent.

Whether they knew what

the channelization of the

Senate would do,

and that is the rapid run off of water

off the floodplain of the Qassemi,

I don't know.

I doubt that they knew

as much as we know now.

They are certainly listening now.

They are examining the question

very carefully.

I think they knew some of it.

I'm a little surprised

that they didn't give more attention

in the planning years.

That is the Corps of Engineers

and the water management

district in West Palm Beach to the fine

book published by Dr.

Gerald Parker of the U.S.

Geological Survey.

In 1955,

there was adequate information

on the hydrology of the Kusuma

Okeechobee system in that book.

For anyone who had given it

reasonable attention to have foreseen

the massive and very harmful

drainage effect that

the channelization of the river

has brought about.

Let's talk for a moment

about the process by which water

moves from the surface

into the atmosphere and triggers

this rain machine, provides

the southern part

of our state with its water.

There are two processes, aren't there?

One, evaporation

from the thin layer of sheet water

in the marshy areas of the state

and then transpiration

from the vegetation.

How do these work just simply expressed

express the shallow

sheet of water in the Everglades

system really function in my senses

as a giant solar collector,

much like a solar collector

would function on the roof of a house,

do the water, warm the water.

The solar radiation

was able to heat that water up

in the daytime in the summer months,

very drastically.

There was a rise in water temperature

from about 14 degrees Celsius,

from nighttime to daytime.

That's a pretty good amount of warming.

That, of course,

activated the water molecules

simply to evaporate on the open

and clear surfaces of water.

And then it also speeded

the germination and growth of plant life,

the physiological actions

within within the plant.

And therefore, a great amount of water

pass through their tissues

out of the soil or off

the surface, move through the leaf .

Now there's stomata

into the atmosphere, and that's

what's called transpiration.

That's transpiration.

We combine the two terms for simplicity,

evaporation being one, transpiration

being the other, and simply

call the total process


which is a good device.

And then if you run off

that water into a deep channel,

or if you drain that water off in order

to develop the land

for housing or for some other purpose,

you remove just, well, that much moisture

that would evaporate into the atmosphere

and give you rain.

That's correct. That is correct.

I read an item just the other day

which essentially said

that canals and St.

Lucie County, which is where Fort

Pierce is, discharge

two million acre feet of water

to tide by a sea or an acre for

the water is an acre

of water, one foot deep, but

just a convenient

unit of volume to handle.

So you don't have such a large numbers

about that particular

drainage of freshwater from the land

into the salt water.

You can make this statement

that that's two million

acre feet of water,

which would never have

any opportunity evaporate

or to transpire in

the southern Florida system.

It's I just use that

when it's a localized one.

But the same principle prevails

when you look at the entire Qassemi

Okeechobee Everglades system,

when the water is run

rapidly off of canals to tide,

it is lost to the evapotranspiration

processes on the land.

Let's take a look at a map

of that part of Florida.

And if you would, please outline for us

the routes from the Qassemi

Lakes around Orlando, south

through the Qassemi Basin

to Lake Okeechobee,

and then into the Everglades proper.

And as we take a look at that,

we can talk about some of the effects.

Most of them bad,

that are taking place now.

As I look at the map, I'm

seeing the eastern part of the lower

portion of the state coming into view.

I see Orlando and the upper left corner,

Cape Canaveral off to the right.

And am I correct in saying

that those bodies of lakes below

Orlando are the Qassemi lakes?

That is correct.

They're called the chain of lakes.

So the Kissimmee River

Valley or Kissimmee River Basin,

there are 15 or 16 of them.

Those lakes as a unit

constituted and still constitute

the headwaters of the

entire Kissimmee Okeechobee

Everglades Basin.

That's an important element

there to many people

in south Florida, for instance,

think that the Everglades begins

in Lake Okeechobee in the old myth,

the enormity and the enormous

importance of this

Kissimmee River basin

to do the to the Okeechobee

and the Everglades portions

because these waters feed the Okeechobee.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Well, take us down then.

Those legs

were in the period

of 1935 to 1950 when Dr.

Parker did his analysis,

which resulted in the book he wrote that

I mentioned earlier

, contributed about seven

hundred thousand acre feet of water

to the lower Kissimmee River

on an average annual basis.

The lake from 700000 acre feet of water.

Then they overflowed in the rainy season

and the water started trickling south

through ponds and flows

and ultimately came down

to the southernmost lake,

that larger one, which is like

the Sunni Highway 60.

Then, of course, that passed on

into the lower floodplain

of the Kissimmee River.

Now you see a canal

with some bends in it.

Prior to the channelization

project, that was a.

River, which meandered widely

over its floodplain.

The distance from lake swimming to Lake

Okeechobee is about 50 miles linearly,

but that river meanders over 100 miles

inland, transport in that region.

Those waters that came down

from the Upper Lakes

and the rain that fell directly

on the lower basin

flooded the lower Kissimmee Valley out

to a with a maximum of about two miles.

Let's stop the map movement.

There is that brown line

from Lake Semi down to the lake,

the channel that that is correct.

And that was devised in order

to speed up the flow of water.

That is correct.

To move the flow of water

out of the Kissimmee

Basin into Okeechobee much more rapidly.

And from Okeechobee,

of course, there are about six

major canals that go directly to tide.

But when that was done,

it was not known how adversely

that would affect the rain

machine of that part of.

I doubt that anyone had thought

that in my own case.

Now this this is going back to nineteen

sixty, approximately when the planning,

which was pretty well underway,

I had begun to wonder about this

evapotranspiration process

in the Everglades, and it began to grow,

in my mind, to be a bigger

and more important thing,

one that I thought

we were overlooking or something here.

And I picked up bits and pieces

of information down through a period of

about 10 or 15 years.

It finally crystallized

when I read your brother's dissertation,

which was about five years ago.

I hadn't even heard of his dissertation.

You did it 10 years ago,

and I got it five years ago.

And then I was absolutely certain

that I was on course on

the significance of that

sheet of water heating heated by the sun

in the upper evapotranspiration.

I should mention my brother's

name, Patrick to Ganon.

He should get credit for

his dissertation. Should have been.

I owe him a great day.

Let's follow the map southward again

from Lake Okeechobee down

into the Everglades proper again.

These waters are moving very slowly

and they're thin sheets are very thin.

That's correct.

And if anything happened

to disturb that flow

more than what already

has been done to those waters,

it would adversely affect

the Biscayne aquifer,

which is the source of potable water

for the Gold Coast.

Some three million people also adversely

affect the sugar industry,

which depends heavily upon those waters

and upon the Monklands.

By the way, let's stop

the map here for a moment, because

much of the Everglades

has been drained off and the Monklands

or peat bogs that remain after draining

are used for growing crops

such as sugar cane

and truck crops and so forth.

And now that the water has

has been taken off

in a very dramatic way,

some of that muck land is burning,

I understand, actually burning on fire.

Generally, I think most people

who pay attention to

what's going on in the Everglades think

that there is one problem

and only one problem,

and that is the problem of water supply.

And certainly that is a problem

and it's a fundamental problem.

But the fact is that

the disturbance of the processes

that were driven

by the energy of the water

really in the pristine

Everglades is costing

costing us tremendous resources,

just just enormous value.

The muck bed.

So the people that south of Lake

Okeechobee was about 18 feet thick

when we first began to drain it.

It five or six feet have already gone.

It took 5000 years

to accumulate that mark

and that she floated that

we're now losing it at a rate of

about an inch to an inch

to an inch and a quarter a year

on this giant agricultural peat soil bed,

which is about twelve hundred

square miles in size.

Approximately a billion

and a half dollars worth of farm products

are yielded each year.

I mean, it is it is of enormous value.

The present rate of burning and oxidation

of the peat beds in that area

are at such a rate

that that entire resource

will be gone in 18 years.

We worry about farmlands

all across the United States.

And here's one of the world's

largest cultivated organic soil,

but whose life remaining

life is 18 years.

I think that's a significant loss.

It is.

I think it's a frightening prospect.

And how does it catch fire?

I understand general oxidation occurring

without signs of fire

blazing and smoking.

But but how does a people catch fire?

Sometimes it happens by natural events,

like in the summertime

when the sun is really baking it.

You know, we've got the

temperature every

real higher than you can get

a bolt of lightning, which

which can cause it to happen.

But we are confident that arsonists

sometimes are at work motorbikes

which emit red hot exhaust gases

and set the Everglades

on fire over miles of length

at a very, very, very quickly.

Some of it, I suppose,

happens accidentally

so it can either be natural

or purposeful or accidental.

I suppose if we wanted a forecast

of how bad things could become,

we only have to look at

what has happened to wildlife,

starting with fish.

I understand that there

there are some truly endangered species

now which were so abundant,

you could net them by the thousands

snuck, for example.

I understand Snook is a very rare fish

where it used to be

one of the most abundant

species in the Everglades, or Snuka

regarded by the researchers

for the state.

The really active research

is as an endangered species,

which is a little hard to think of.

We think we tend to think of

mammals or birds or something like that

when we think of endangered species.

But the Florida's chief researcher,

Jerry Prover in Petersburg,

considers the snook population

an endangered population.

His estimate is that

the adult population of Snook

in the Ten Thousand Islands area

number is less than 3000 fishers.

This is nothing compared

to the rates of catch the commercial man

achieved in that area in World War Two

when we were out

to get a lot of protein food.

A catch of that kind

with one side of the net

would have been

an absolutely small catch.

So it's it's definitely down very bad

that that particular fish

that would interest me especially.

Well, because that particular fish

happened to be the subject

of my master's thesis, like,

oh, good, I've never done all of that.

Redfish and trout.

The same kinds of things

are beginning to happen.

Yes, they are, particularly

in northeastern Florida Bay.

And in that portion, which is contained

within the boundaries

of Everglades National Park.

The marine fish populations now are down

something of 50 to 75 percent

of what they were very few years ago.

Now, as you move to the west, over

toward the Buttonwood Canal

and the flamingo area,

there is a fair amount of population.

But up in that northeast

corner of Florida Bay,

it's very, very bad shape.

Marine fish population.

And let's talk about birds

wading birds that used to populate

the Everglades in such great numbers.

I understand they are a rarity now.

There are about a dozen

or 15 species of birds and other animals

which are considered

endangered or threatened.

I think the real classic one

is the Woodstock,

whose population numbered

perhaps a million and a half

birds at the turn of the century.

Now down to something less than 200000.

Another striking statistic

in regard to the Woods store

is that out of the last

17 years of nesting,

the adults have failed to fledge

their young 15 years

in a row and 15 times

15 failures out of 17 years

in their ability to to raise.

And Fleg, their young and Johnny Jones,

the director of the Florida

Wildlife Federation, whose name

I used at the beginning

of our discussion,

has pointed out recently in Sports

Illustrated in an article

that featured your

your prophecy.

You know, I suppose

that's the best way to describe it.

Said that the Kissimmee River Basin

used to host about a million dollars

a year.

This year,

he and his friends counted eight.

That is correct.

There is a similar

or somewhat paralleling

event in regard to the Qassemi

gets back to the amount of water

that it supplied

to Lake Okeechobee before



Parker's book showed that

the Qassemi supplied one

and two million acre

feet of water to Lake Okeechobee

on an average basis,

each of those 14

or 15 years of its study.

One point two million acre feet.

That's about three or three

and a half feet of water

on Lake Okeechobee in 1980,

the amount of input

was one hundred eighty

thousand acre feet.

In nineteen eighty one, it was seventy

one thousand acre feet,

and that's three inches.

What I'm saying is

that the channelization

and the damage of the lakes

and the approbation have reduced

the input

to Lake Okeechobee from three feet

on Lake Okeechobee to three inches.

That's something like

the million bucks down to eight.

And the numbers and it's not only a

channelizing the semi river

or doing the other things

that have been done in draining the lands

along the basin and the route

southward to the Everglades.

But it's also a matter

of development, too, isn't it?

The concrete fortresses,

if you will, that have

gone up on both coasts,

the hotels, the condominiums, the

the cities with all of their concrete,

all of that required

the draining of sheet

water from the surface,

that not only the draining

and the reduction

of the size of the Everglades, but rather

apparently massive interferences

with the rainfall cycles and so forth

with your brother. And also Dr.

Shannon from Illinois mentioned here

on the university last week,

they are both really, really

quite concerned about that.

That again.

Interferences with the normal natural

rainfall in the South Florida system.

My brother has taken

a rather strong stand.

Sir, he does on development

in southern Florida.

He and Sports Illustrated,

he is cited as saying,

well, I quote the writer,

if Gannon had it within his power,

he would put an immediate

stop to development.

For instance, he would

reflood Golden Gate Estates,

a huge tract of land

east of Naples that was drained,

but never built on people in this area.

I guess look at at a distance

of the South Florida system.

And I think there are things

to be learned there that have portend

for the future of the north Florida.

And that's certainly one of them.

Whether the pouring

of concrete interferes

with with rather weather

cycles and so forth,

there's another thing

that is really a part

of the whole rain machine.

That's that to me is quite significant.

And it's significant

not only in the Kissimmee

Everglades area,

but I think it's

significant to Gainesville

and to North Florida.

And it goes something like this,

that the movement of water

in the Everglades system,

the water on the ground was,

of course, to the south,

because that's the way

that the land flows into our base

and all the way down to Florida Bay.

But there was a counteracting force

in that system

that had to do with

the movement of water,

and that was the evapotranspiration

of the water off

the floor of the Everglades.

Once that water was lifted

above the tops of the

sawgrass, let's say, in the lower

atmosphere, that moisture

it immediately encountered encountered

the prevailing southeasterly breeze

in south Florida

in the summertime

breeze, which could run

three to five knots.

I'll tell you what this means,

a reef as I can make it,

whereas it took nearly two months

for a molecule of water to move a mile

to the south in the Everglades

once it lifts into that lower

atmosphere .

I was by the prevailing breezes.

Then that water can move north

five miles in an hour.

Remarkable, you say, and a hundred miles

in twenty four hours and 500

or 600 or 700 miles in a week.

I know that this is stretching it,

and I'm a little reluctant to do that,

because I know that we do need

more research on the rain

machine concept.

But I am beginning to think

that the paucity of water

in central Florida,

north of the Kissimmee Okeechobee Basin,

you know, we have two hundred

sinkholes already formed this year.

We have a farmer out

west of Gainesville, 40 miles.

No longer can grow corn on his land

because it's too dry.

I'm beginning to wonder

if the series of serious drought,

which North Florida is experiencing,

perhaps even southern Georgia hasn't

been tampered with by the interference

with the rainfall cycle in south Florida


That's the bad news

in the minutes that we have remaining.

What some good news.

What's being done?

What has been done already?

Quite a few things, and I'm very glad

to have a chance to get on that.

You know, I sometimes think

ecology has become another desert

like alarmism, and

I don't really think of it that way .

I think that as long as we can interpret

the realities of this world

in the way it really works

and not the way that

we hope that it works,

which we failed to do in

in South Florida,

that then we have a chance

to do things that are right.

And some of those things are happening

in the Everglades system.

About two years ago, I developed a plan

which is now sort of facetiously

referred to as the Marshall Plan,

which has about 12

or 14 elements in it

to repair the Everglades system

of that 12 or 14 items.

Several of them are already

in place and five or six more are under

study to be put in place.

One of them is that I can

maybe quickly recite these

is that the Buttonwood

Canal and Everglades

National Park is right now being plugged.

The contractors on site, the water

management district, refused

to drain floodwaters off

Eastern Everglades last year

after that storm, that

even though a couple of hundred

houses were standing in flood,

that's the first time

they refused to drain land

and refused to do it,

even though there was a pitiful situation

prevailing for those

people in those homes


The Park Service has developed a plan

to restore the Turner River.

That's a little coastal stream,

which is in the Big Cypress

National Freshwater Preserve,

which is now a public domain.

The plan has been developed.

The administrative reviews

are taking place to get the permits

and to do the work that's

necessary to do that.

If that happens, as I think it will,

that would be the first damaged river

to be restored in Florida.

A very similar event

is taking place on the Loxahatchee River

in the Jupiter area for its restoration.

The water management district, denied

by a unanimous vote

of the members, present

a twenty million dollar drainage plan

for eastern Henry County just last year.

That would have been

another Small-Scale Casini River,

and they turned it down

for the first time in their history.

They have denied

the entrance of a new Jetport Runway

into conservation area three B down

in the southern Everglades,

because that would mean that runway.

It interfered with their attempts

to reestablish flow in that very large

conservation area.

They put two dams in the Miami Canal

in the middle of conservation area three,

and they had dug that

canal some years ago

to speed the flow of the water.

So now they put two dams in there

to not only stop the flow

of the water stop,

but to force it once again

out over the marshes.

We have one minute left.

Has Governor Graham

and the officialdom

of the state of Florida

demonstrated concern about this problem?

Yes, they certainly have.

I and others have met

with the governor

several times as recently as January.

The outcome of that session

with the governor

and with a person on his staff

is that he appointed

Secretary Schenkel BGR

to move the country

to pardon me on selecting the plan

for the restoration

of the Kissimmee Valley

and to do that by the end of this year.

And that process is now underway.

All right.

Thank you very much.

I thank you both for your warning

and for your signs of hope.

I thank you for what you have contributed

as a single citizen

to helping all of us

enjoy a better life in Florida.

Thanks for being with me

in our conversation. Thank you, Mike.