Some of you think I am going to get down and dirty in this issue with the Donald in speaking of the confines of DC. Actually our nation’s capitol was not a swamp but the river was dredged to make the Potomac more navigable and the crud was placed in the ‘Flats” and presto we had several more acres of property where the Tidal Basin and the Lincoln Memorial now reside. But I digress. I wanted to talk to you about my new environs and the Central and South Florida Water District. You probably know it as the Everglades.
I have just read a fascinating book by Michael Grunwald titled “The Swamp.” I won’t get too technical but this chronicles south Florida’s history from the 1500’s on. I should say it immortalizes several centuries of man’s foolishness in messing with Mother Nature. We are always so damn sure that we know better. And then spend inordinate amounts of money trying to undo our madness. The villains are many from early discoverers to land barons to our beloved Army Corps of Engineers.
For centuries Florida lay at the tip of the Continental Unites States and depending on who was the flavor of the day, changed hands many times as sovereign land of somebody. Eventually it became a territory and then on a state of the US. The southern part was largely uninhabited but we felt this strong desire to root out those damn Indians. They provided a safe house for run away slaves and we could not have that. So we chased the Seminoles before there was a Bobby Bowden, clear down to this weird and unforgiving place called the Everglades.
Like the US in many other places our tactics and soldiers did not fit the local terrain. Brute force was constantly thwarted by the wily redskins, sorry native Americans, who knew the wetlands like the palm of their mud caked hands. If my memory serves me it was kind of like that when I was in Nam. Ditto Afghanistan and Iraq. You’d think we would learn our lessons.
But after conquering or at least coming to a stalemate with the tribe we wanted to open up southern Florida for development in the 1900’s. Henry Flagler had made his money in starting Standard Oil with John D Rockefeller. He envisioned bringing rail transport to the length of the Sunshine State and building hotels all along the way. To entice him the state gave him so much land for every mile of track he laid. But there was this mess of swamp land that kept getting in the way. It actually stretched from around modern day Orlando to Miami before there was a South Beach.
This stuff was pretty much primordial ooze. Good for the lawn but not for habitation. It seems it was all a terribly complex piece of ecosystem where the parts were inextricably connected. There was this very windy Kissimee River that we thought was totally impractical. We did the best thing and straightened it into a many miles long canal. Good for boating but bad for letting Nature do its thing. You see in all those curves there was a natural cleansing and dropping off of things key to life on each bend. When we eliminate the filtering system all the gunk gathered on the floor of the canal and you know the result.
All this had a terminus in Lake Okeechobeee. Born millions of year’s ago it encompasses about 750 square miles smack dab in the middle of the state. Only problem is it is only 12 feet deep. It should be part of a fresh water system but low and behold with all that crap coming down from up north, the bottom took on the look and feel of a cesspool. In our brilliance we also created an earthen damn to control flooding and also to create land to the south. Seems it was perfect for growing sugar cane. And what does that do? It provides ready cash for sleazy politicians from the coffers of King Sugar.
So now we have created a toilet so to speak. What else should we do but flush it when it becomes overloaded. So the Corps digs a canal to the Atlantic on the East and the Gulf on the West. When the hurricanes make their way inland they dump a lot of rain. We got to protect the sugar plantations so we pump it out. You might have seen the algae bloom on both coasts last summer. Now you know why. Meanwhile without the natural flow of aqua pura the Everglades are dying. Indigenous species can find their old food sources and they perish in fires or lack of food. The aquifers don’t get replenished.
I don’t have near enough space or knowledge to do the subject justice but it pointed out to me how incredibly stupid and greedy we can be. We make moves as a country in our government as well as our private industries that are without forethought. I am not up for unending environmental studies but this is a notorious example of getting something done and worrying about the long term results later.
Now when the loan comes due we have to go back and try to undo the wrong we have done with a disastrous loss of time and money. The book is biased to the green side but even if you take it to half of what they are saying is true it is a disgrace. Laws are constantly being proposed and both environmentalist and big business take issue dragging things out and forgoing any semblance of closure. And time marches on.
Unless I am terribly wrong this is not the only project in the US that is fraught with complexity and ineptitude. Bridges to nowhere. Unfinished uclear reactors. Uncompleted tunnels under the Hudson. A high speed rail line on the coast that will never make sense. Yet we continue on. I guess you can say we are mired in the mush of politics, scandal, and corruption. Maybe swamp is the right word.
Ted The Great
Al Gore neglected to support environmentalists in trying secure a solution to the Everglades problems in early 2000. He lost Florida by 500 some odd votes. It is estimated that 10,000 Florida environmentalists voted for Ralph Nader. Kind of like Hilary not campaigning in Wisconsin.
They put the curves back in the Kissimmee River. Slowly but surely flora and fauna came back to life. Parts of the Everglades are now protected. There was a proposed airport seven miles from it but it was defeated. There is hope.
There is fresh water and there is salt water. When they combine naturally it is called brackish water and it is sustainable. When there is too much flow one way or the other there is destruction of habitats and plant life. I never thought of myself as a tree hugger but the stance does have its attributes.
Exotic animals are a big business…about $15 billion last year. Hurricane Andrew hit Miami in 1992. A warehouse contains 1000 Burmese pythons was destroyed and the reptiles made their way to the Everglades where they are devouring everything in sight. They have no known enemy and they can lay 100 eggs at a time. Snakes on the Plain.