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Water Managers to Joint Meeting: Everglades Water Quality Much Improved

A heady mixture of determination, collaboration and financial investment is impressively turning Everglades water quality around, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) data show.

At a joint meeting Thursday of the House State Affairs Committee and House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, the take-home message was this: The iconic "River of Grass" is in much better shape today than it was 20 years ago.

And it is primarily because of these reasons:

* The $1.8 billion the state has invested in Everglades restoration.

* The $200 million that Everglades farmers have paid in ag privilege tax.

* Another $200 million in implementing on-farm "best management practices."

* The collaboration between the farmers and the South Florida Water Management District.

* Phosphorus levels in negatively impacted areas, though not yet at the desired 10 parts per billion, are nevertheless headed in the right direction, measuring in the low teens.

SaidBarbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, "Speaking personally, we're proud to be part of a solution."

The authority behind the water quality statistics was Ernie Barnett, Everglades policy director for SFWMD. Barnett has 28 years of water resources management experience and public service, during which he contributed to several landmark environmental laws.

Was everybody on the same page with the good news? No. In spite of the SFWMD data, the Everglades Foundation wants ag to pay a larger percentage of the pollution cleanup cost.

My Monday column, "I Beg to Differ," will deal with this issue. Stay tuned.

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