Palmetto Bay, Fla. — The Everglades Foundation’s (The Foundation) “Road Trip to Restoration” rolled into Islamorada, Florida, last Sunday night, concluding a 12-day, 22-city bus tour to build support for incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron’s (R-Stuart) plan to stop outbreaks of toxic algae by building a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
“Even after 1,976 miles, this is just the beginning,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation. “We won’t stop until the legislature adopts incoming Senate President Negron’s plan and Congress appropriates the federal share of funding.”
“Everywhere we went on this tour, from Orlando to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Floridians told us they want clean water and to save America’s Everglades,” said Eikenberg. “They’re tired of the foot-dragging in Tallahassee and Washington.”
For 210 days this year, Florida labored under two separate states of emergencies caused by toxic blue-green algae outbreaks at 44 separate locations along both coasts and in Florida Bay. The slimy, noxious algae outbreaks forced officials to close beaches and restrict fishing, which devastated tourism in the affected coastal communities.
The algae is caused by discharges of phosphorus-laden water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers for flood control, and by the resulting saltwater imbalances in the estuaries and rivers.
“Scientists from 20 different state, federal and local agencies and tribal authorities identified the solution — a massive water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee – more than 16 years ago,” said Eikenberg.
“Instead of wasting billions of gallons that ought to be flowing south into the Everglades and Florida Bay, the EAA Reservoir will allow us to store this precious fresh water so it can be cleansed and sent south,” said Eikenberg. More than 50,000 acres of sea grass – about 80 square miles – have been killed because the bay is starved of fresh water.
“For too long, Florida has faced an ongoing environmental disaster of toxic algae in the wet season and severe droughts in the dry months,” said Eikenberg. “We’ve known the solution for 16 years. The only thing that has been missing is the political will. With incoming Senate President Joe Negron, we now have the leadership, and thanks to the voters of Florida who supported the Water and Land Conservation Amendment in 2014, we now have the resources available to fix it.”
The Foundation used the tour to highlight a booklet, “Now or Neverglades,” which is a roadmap for elected officials to advance Everglades restoration. The booklet is available for free download at http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Booklet-The-Everglades-Foundation-Web.pdf.
The Foundation gathered more than 7,000 signatures for the “#NowOrNeverglades Declaration” at stops along the tour. The Declaration is supported by more than 200 Everglades scientists and calls for greater water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.
“We are recruiting an ‘Everglades Restoration Army’ that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with incoming Senate President Negron when the Florida Legislature takes up his proposal to buy land for the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee,” said Eikenberg.
“Altogether, more than 40,000 signatures have been gathered by The Foundation and its allied groups,” said Eikenberg.
About The Everglades Foundation
The Foundation is dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s Everglades. This unique ecosystem provides economic, recreational and life-sustaining benefits to the millions of people in Florida who depend on its future health. Through the advancement of scientifically sound and achievable solutions, The Foundation seeks to reverse the damage inflicted on the ecosystem and provide policymakers and the public with an honest and credible resource to help guide decision-making on complex restoration issues. To learn more about The Foundation, please visit EvergladesFoundation.org.