Headed South

The Long Road to Restoration in the Everglades

By Michael Adno for SRQ (Available online here)

Rushing toward the interior of the C-43 lock, adjacent to Lake Okeechobee’s Rim Canal, plumes of green and blue swirl on the surface then dissipate as nutrient sediment sinks to the bottom. Phosphorus gives the algae blooms plaguing the east coast their peculiar color. The water moving throughout the wide Rim Canal turns a corner toward the lock and narrows into a 50-foot wide section where water pours steadily into the Caloosahatchee River, the other side a turbid, metallic ochre color, the oxygen forming an archipelago of foam and run-off swirling around before flowing towards Ft. Myers. The same is happening across the lake at the C-44 lock emptying into the St. Lucie River towards Stuart, plunging our state into a seven-day state of emergency in four counties.

The small sugar-sand parking lot below the towering C-43 lock is fragrant with dead fish and dehydrated grass. Visible pollution streaming by as a small group of fishermen casts their cane poles into the water alongside a T-shaped pier just in the shadow of the precarious lock. One fisherman warns of a water moccasin making its way up the shoreline. Smokers flick cigarettes into the water along with bits of monofilament. It’s to be expected, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Everglades remain on life-support, exacerbated by big agriculture, big sugar and inevitably big people.

Back on the lake side of the lock, a division of brown, milky water moves along next to the tannin, tea-colored lake, a deep, dark blue in the high sun but turning rooibos red as one edges in. This was the case for the two consecutive days that I visited in late June preceding Governor Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in St. Lucie and Martin counties. Shortly after, he added Lee and Palm Beach counties, likely in response to the traction that the state’s algae blooms, water releases and fishkills gained in the national media. Finally, Governor Scott made an unsuccessful request to President Barack Obama to declare a federal state of emergency in response to the toxic algae blooms plaguing Florida’s east coast.

Read the entire feature and see all the photographs online at SRQ.

And read U.S. Sugar's response here.