Since my last column, an alarming number of tragic events have occurred related to Florida’s water. We are in an era of dangerous consequences from decisions being made at the state and local levels. We must all become more involved to ensure that those decisions take our future into account.
Immediately after the foul water bill I wrote that Gov. Scott signed, relaxing permitting laws and allowing polluters to police themselves, the skies opened up as if weeping at our folly. A three-fold increase in rainfall forced the South Florida Water Management District to pump water off the agricultural lands into Lake Okeechobee, and out to the St. Lucie and Calahoosatchee Estuaries.
The resulting fouled water, massive fish kill and negative impact on the tourism industry spurred an immediate backlash from businesses and citizens. Suddenly Governor Scott began touting new support for restoring the Everglades, a sure fire way to gain brownie points from City Hall to Congress.
Simultaneously, we learned that the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Biscayne Bay is leaking dangerously polluted water into the Bay, with impacts still unknown. When radioactive material 200 times the acceptable level is found in our water, it’s time for us to find out more.
In an eerie example of events building to some kind of crescendo, the historic “colored beach” in Fort Lauderdale and in Miami are simultaneously back in the news. Both are on barrier islands which must have been considered noxious throw-aways in the Jim Crow era, worthy of being given for the Negroes’ use. Ironically we now know that barrier islands are of vital importance to protect coastlines from the effects of storm surge.
Under a new bill proposed by State Senator Chris Smith and State Rep Evan Jenne, the “Colored Beach” at John U. Lloyd State Park will be renamed for the black pioneers who integrated the beaches at the risk of life and limb. Gov. Scott signed the bill renaming the Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park that will take effect July 1.
But I felt as if I’d fallen into the abyss when I read that Virginia Key, the site of Miami’s Jim Crow era Colored Beach, is Miami-Dade County’s choice to drill a well 10,000 feet down to pump in and store sewage – as a money-saving measure.
I can only say that if we the people fail to exercise our citizenship rights to be involved in our government and big decisions such as this, then maybe we deserve what we get. It has long been said that in a democracy, we get the kind of government we deserve, as we vote on it. Failing to be involved in every aspect of the process, from making sure we are living up to one wo/man, one vote, to keeping our elected officials on track, means we are part of the problem.
If an increase in the average rainfall can lead to such dire consequences including dead fish on the beaches; back pumping from the cane fields into Lake Okeechobee; endangered animals drowning in the Everglades; and an unaccustomed torrent of emails from the South Florida Management District telling the public all the things they’re doing right, what is going to happen when we have a hurricane, a weather event to which South Florida is prone? What will we do when the winds off the Atlantic or the Gulf whip the waters onto the land’s end occupied by so many people? What will we do when that water is increasingly toxic? What do we imagine the consequences of pumping sewage beneath our aquifers will be?
I just want to remind you that 2030 is the year we are projected to begin experiencing serious sea level/storm surge effects, according to Climate Central. A partnership between the federal and state governments to restore the Everglades has been going on for almost 30 years, and we couldn’t accommodate a few inches of unexpected rainfall. So how many years will it take us to come to agreement about what needs to be done statewide, and then to get it done?
I’ve given you the highlights. Time to do your research as a conscious citizen and get involved.