Six proposed soluti
A half dozen proposed solutions
predominate the frequent discussions
over what Florida should do.
One, stop the dumping
"Treated ewage cannot be released to
the fresh waters of Florida without doing
grave damage," warned Nathaniel Reed,
who acted as Florida's environmental
czar under two governors and is a former
U.S. undersecretary of the Interior. "The
more we recognize that nutrients in sew-
age are just as important as bacteria and
viruses in sewage, the closer we w.l-.
come to the conclusion that we cannot or
should not put nutrified sewage effluent
in the lakes and rivers of Florida because
they stand it."
The sewage should be sent to the ocean
or sprayed on groves and crops or divert-
ed into polishing ponds, he said.
Also it has been frequently suggested
by many environmentalists that farmers
and other water users be required to keep
their polluted water in holding ponds on
their own land. That would take up a lot
Two, stop the drainage
No more wetlands would be turned
into dry ground, no matter where or for
what purpose. All further development
would be on land that now is dry. This
would be a tough decision for public offi-
cials to make. There is plenty of vacant
dry ground in Florida, but not all of it is
where the population is growing fastest.
"We have drained all we ought to
drain," said Garald Parker, a leading
Florida hydrologist who before World
War II discovered and named the Bis-
cayne Aquifer, South Florida's sole
source of drinking water.
Almost 10 years ago another noted hy-
drologist, James Hartwell, warned that
the South Florida urban area was exceed-
ing its carrying capacity for water. Hart-
well urged the county then to halt devel-
opment between the urban coast and the
national park. The area, which includes
the East Eyerglades, is needed for re-
charging the underground aquifer, he
To deal with flooding, government is
being urged by environmentalists to zone
out development in low-lying areas. This
is called a "non-structural" approach. In-
creasingly this approach is getting prefer-
ence over the traditional "structural" ap-
proach, which means digging canals,
building dikes and dams and installing
Three, adopt a state policy
on water management
Gov. Graham puts much store in this
"We've played all the tricks on mother
nature we can get away with," Graham
It has taken a long time, but the state
Department of Environmental Regulation
is about to adopt such a policy. A public
hearing on the third and weakest version
was held last month In Tallahassee. With
each new draft of the policy, mandates
were changed to mere suggestions and
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many safeguards were deleted. An exam*
ple of the deletions: "Excessive drainage
should be prevented or mitigated to the
greatest degree that is economically and
Some sources attribute the weakness
of the proposed water policy to interfer-
ence from the leaders of Florida's five
water-management districts. For years
the districts have operated as independ.
ent fiefdoms. District board members ap-
pointed by the governor often represent
powerful agricultural and development
interests. The districts do not want to
lose power to the state's Department of
The final version of the water policy.
drew .bitter complaint that it was too
weak from Charles Lee, vice president of
the Florida Audubon Society, and Reed,
now 4 board member of the South Florida
Water Management District.
Reed called the policy "pablum." After
furious debate at the district board meet-
ing, le cast a minority "no" vote.
"Too many hands have massageIfthat
paper!" said Reed. One of the hands was
that of the agricultural interests repre-
sented by the Florida Water Users Asso-
Four, buy more wetlands
Gov. Graham has charged the state to
protect its wetlands. One way would be
to buy more of them.
To raise state funds to purchase the
watersheds and recharge areas for Flori-
da's underground aquifers, Graham and
leading state conservationists are propos-
ing an increase in a state tax that would
yield about $20 million a year. The in-
crease would be on the stamp tax on
real-estate documents, such as deeds, that.
are filed in court. The tax would go up
from 40 to 45 cents on each $100 worth
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Five, reflood somie
of the drained land
So critical is the condition of Florida's
wetlands today that even if it were ob-
tainable a drainage moratorium might not
suffice. Some experts believe it is neces-
sary to reflood some of the drained land
to improve water quantity and quality.
One of the first serious suggestions for
reflooding was made several years ago in
a state study on the eutrophication (suffo-
Scation) of Lake Okeechobee. State plan-
ners proposed that the channelized Kis-
simmee River be restored to its original
winding condition. This would more ade-
quately filter pollution-laden water from
the Upper Chain of Lakes before it is
dumped into Lake Okeechobee. The Kis-
simmee Restoration Plan still is very
An even more ambitious cQicept is
being advanced by Arthur Marshall, one
of Florida's philosopher-ecologists. He
would "repair" the Everglades by restor-
ing the historic sheet flow of water
through the sawgrass wherever possible.
Marshall is a former U.S. Fish and Wild-
life Service biologist and university re-
searcher who has served on two water-
Marshall's plan would dismantle much
of the plumbing that has been installed in
the wetlands over the past 30 years.
Some canals would be plugged or filled
in. Culverts would be placed in dikes.
Water would be allowed to flow as near-
ly as possible the way it did before people
Without commenting on the Marshall
plan, the National Park Service has asked
the Water Management 'District to pro-
vide "the most natural water delivery
possible" to the park.
Although the Water Management Dis-
trict is silent on the Marshall plan, it is
making some changes in the way it-
moves water around. More plugs have
been installed in more canals, to further
retard the runoff of fresh water to the
Reed agrees with Marshall that the
Everglades river of grass needs to be re-
stored where possible.
"We have got to get out of the engi-
neering business and return many of the
great waterway systems to their more
natural condition," he said.
Six, support the regulators
The state Department of Environmen-
tal Regulation needs more and better paid
"The Department has lost its punch,"
Reed said. "It has not grown. The staff
has no feeling that the governor is behind
them. There is no commitment to give
these people the support which is abso-
lutely essential for any program to suc-
...Try for consensus
The Florida Game and Fresh Water
Fish Commission complains that nobody
is trying to build a bridge between people
working for economic development and
more jobs and those fighting for a quality
natural environment. The commission
asks why Florida can't achieve both ob-
jectives. The question is another with no
Living alongside the wetlands, lakes
and streams without polluting or mutilat-
ing them may prove to be a difficult
urban challenge, as difficult as the chal-
lenge to live in harmony with different
kinds of people. But Floridians living in a
tarnished paradise should have learned a
lesson that unless the wilderness wet-
lands survive, our urban life-styles may
be in jeopardy.
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