Guest column: Invest in reservoir now — not later

By Nathaniel P. Reed
March 10, 2017
TC Palm

There is nothing complicated about the need to invest in the so-called Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir. One need only understand that water flows downhill.

When Florida’s rains are heavy, the water flows down from the Kissimmee River valley and into Lake Okeechobee; it has to go somewhere to avoid a flooding disaster that would devastate communities south of the lake. Today, the only option is to send the excess water east and west, because there is no means to send and store it south.

In two of the past four years, those discharges have led to outbreaks of toxic cyanobacteria (often called “blue-green algae”) that kills aquatic life. The algae routinely, and with increasing severity, has invaded both our coasts shutting down beaches, devastating sport fishing and wreaking havoc on Florida’s tourism industry, not to mention creating fumes that are toxic to humans.

The discharges are an environmental disaster for Florida Bay as well, but for a different reason. Instead of too much freshwater, the bay is being killed by too little. We have blocked or wasted fully two-thirds of the fresh water that once flowed into Florida Bay, where once-crystal clear water now often looks like pea soup. More than 50,000 acres of life-sustaining sea grass have been killed by excess salt water, and the die-off is worsening, with fish and other wildlife not far behind.

This economic, environmental and public health crisis will continue until we open new outlets that will allow us to store — and not waste — the excess rain water.

The Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir will provide an outlet where water can be sent and stored until it is needed during the dry seasons.

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