Title: Guest Column
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00000889/00001
 Material Information
Title: Guest Column
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Guest Column By: John R. Wodraska -Executive Director South Florida Water Management District
General Note: Box 7, Folder 3 ( Vail Conference 1988 - 1988 ), Item 60
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00000889
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

*Guest Column
John R. Wodraska
Executive Director

South Florida Water Management District

E.F. Schumacker once said, "We are now far too clever to be able to survive
without wisdom."

This is the situation we face with respect to managing South Florida's water
resources. Whenever human, technological and natural systems come together,
in important challenge arises--to balance society's needs with the natural
diversity required for healthy environmental systems. It is a dilemma
magnified here in South Florida by a special combination. We enjoy one of
nature's rarest ecologic creations the Everglades, and one of mankind's most
attractive and unique subtropical places to live the southern peninsula of

Like an artist who painstakingly applies each drop of paint to the canvas, the
South Florida Water Management District, as steward of Florida's most precious
resource, must proceed carefully as it manages a complex system: a system
which at one time had only a single purpose, but which now is called upon to
Meet so many different, sometimes conflicting, demands, under ever-changing

District evolves into Multi-purpose Agency
From its inception, it has been the mission of the South Florida Water
Management District to deal in large natural and cultural systems. The
District inherited an extensive flood control project--one of the world's
largest "plumbing systems"--without which South Florida,.as we know it today,
could not exist. This federally supported project, designed and built in the
'50s and '60s, was dedicated to managing South Florida's natural hydrologic
system for the benefit and welfare of man. By any standards, this plan, which
relied on canals, control structures, pumps and levees, has substantially
affected the environment of our region.

As the mission of the Flood Control District expanded over the years to
include water supply, water quality protection and environmental protection
and enhancement, the impact of the flood control project became more apparent.
What also became increasingly clear is that more flexibility could be built
into the man-made system to accommodate the District's broader-mission.

The more we learn about the natural system, the more challenging the balance
among our competing water management objectives becomes. We find ourselves in
the "era of no easy answers" as we strive to protect the second largest
freshwater lake in the United States, pursue the most massive and complex
river restoration program ever attempted, safeguard the Everglades, provide
flood protection to areas which were uninhabitable at one time, and ensure the
water quality and water supply needs for one of the fastest growing regions in
the nation and one of the richest agricultural belts in the world.



Changing Conditions Add to Complexity
South Florida's recent brushes with Hurricane Floyd and a tropical depression
are excellent examples of the complex and uncertain conditions under which the
District manages water resources. Prior to Floyd, Lake Okeechobee (South
Florida's water supply barometer) was over 3 feet below its desired level. A
lack of wet season rainfall had left the region's primary surface water
storage system dangerously low as we headed into the winter and spring.
Concerns were growing over the need to impose water restrictions.
The threat of a hurricane, however, re-directed both our attention and our
Approach to water management. In the event of a potential life-threatening
hurricane, every priority is given to safety and the protection of life and
property -- even at the temporary expense of water supply and water quality
objectives. Fortunately, south Florida suffered little more than moderate
wind and rains which helped replenish surface and groundwater supplies.

Need for Incremental Decision-making is Clear
In times of hurricanes, the District reverts to its "roots" as a flood control
agency whose mission is the protection of life and property. But flood
control is just one of our responsibilities. The decade of the '80s has seen
much of our time and resources devoted to protecting and enhancing the
environment. In planning these efforts, the District has made a conscientious
decision to approach environmental restoration and enhancement at a measured
pace. Rapid,. wholesale changes are likely to have as many adverse as
beneficial effects on the environment. Often misinterpreted, the District's
methodical incremental approach is a distinct departure from earlier
fragmented decisions regarding the environment.

Taking guided incremental steps like placing weirs in the Kissimmee River
for a two-year test may seem agonizingly slow. But during the two-year
monitoring period we have made real progress and have measured positive
environmental benefits, while maintaining flood control and navigation on the
river. People can see the acres of restored wetlands. They can boat on the
river oxbows that had been clogged and closed-off due to channelization.
Moreover, the restoration project is small enough in scope and scale to
minimize risks, yet large enough to let us learn and move forward with the
knowledge gained.

A comprehensive plan for protecting the Everglades and South Florida is a
laudable goal, but we must be wary of the "quick fix." Our goal is to be the
wise stewards of the resource. Wisdom comes from finding manageable ways to
resolve conflicts while learning how to do a better job of protecting the
resource. This must be accomplished in a reasonable fashion that recognizes
opportunities and takes into consideration the interests of participants and
stakeholders. Weirs on the Kissimmee, a rainfall-driven plan for Everglades
National Park, a new water release strategy for the St. Lucie estuary, and a
xeriscape program to reduce landscape watering exemplify such opportunities.



These projects and others like them are not a function of one agency's
capability; they reflect our collective will as we strive to preserve our
environment while addressing the burgeoning water resource needs of our
region. The District stands at the crossroads of opportunity and influence as
it faces the unprecedented challenges such as restoring Lake Okeechobee and
managing the water quality needs of the Everglades National Park and the
Loxahatchee Refuge.

Because South Floridians live in a "managed" system, we must ultimately select
how the balance between man and nature will be struck. In doing so, we need
to remember that the impacts of our decisions will affect future generations,
just as the past affects us today.





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