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Nancy Smith

You Mean We're Finally Acknowledging Northern Everglades Water 'Quality'?

August 9, 2019 - 8:30am

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board voted Thursday "to dramatically expand water quality monitoring within the Northern Everglades watersheds and Lake Okeechobee."

This actually was treated as one of the day's Big Stories.

Pardon me for laughing out loud.

Some 97 percent of the water coming into Lake Okeechobee from the north -- particularly from the Kissimmee area -- has already shown the lake's contaminated water originates on the highly developed northwest side of the Everglades' headwaters.

I Beg to DifferBut all of a sudden we're going to do what the Water Management District and many scientists and engineers wanted to do before January, before the sugar-obsessed, south-of-the-lake-obsessed Everglades Foundation was running the show. We're going to focus on measuring water quality in the Northern Everglades, source of Lake Okeechobee's largest pollution inflow. 

Which will help "fulfill the initiatives of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force convened by Gov. DeSantis to better understand harmful algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the coastal estuaries in the Northern Everglades," says an upbeat District press release.

(SFWMD has a water-quality video you can watch HERE.)

The program will increase the number of monitoring stations from 161 to 243. SFWMD claims it will monitor water quality across nearly 5.5 million acres, or approximately 8,600 square miles, of Lake Okeechobee and the three Northern Everglades watersheds. Besides adding sampling sites, the Governing Board also increased the frequency of sampling, from monthly to twice a month.

The District also has expanded the parameters of what water quality indicators SFWMD scientists will be measuring, including tracking nitrogen at sites where it was not previously collected and tracking water temperature and dissolved oxygen.

So, we're finally admitting there might be poop in the water?

Within Lake Okeechobee, SFWMD will add 11 new monitoring stations as well as increase the frequency of sampling. Additionally, the parameters for what is being measured, such as algal blooms, will be expanded. And in the 3.5 million-acre watershed that drains into Lake Okeechobee, SFWMD will add 37 new sites as well as increase the frequency of sample collection and number of parameters monitored. 

SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss was quick to give the credit to DeSantis. 

"The South Florida Water Management District is glad to support Governor DeSantis' ambitious effort to improve water quality in the Everglades with today's vote to expand our water quality monitoring," Goss said in a press statement. "More scientific data leads to better decisions and helps us achieve more now for Florida's environment. That is why we are investing in a robust scientific monitoring infrastructure, so we can have the most complete picture possible of the health of this great ecosystem to make the best possible decisions to restore and protect it." 

The District proposes for the St. Lucie Watershed on the east coast, 15 new sites will be added, many of which will measure the local runoff from basins such as the C-23, C-24 and C-44 "that provide a significant amount of the nutrient load reaching the St. Lucie Estuary but had not previously been monitored ..." 

In the Caloosahatchee Estuary on the west coast, SFWMD will add 15 new monitoring sites that will sample twice a month "for a wide variety of critical water quality indicators."

Better late than never.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 

Comments

The water coming from the upper chain of lakes is double (or higher) the 40 ppb phosphorus target for the lake. And since it is a LOT of water, even if it is cleaner than other sources, that does not mean it is not a problem. Also, the cows are not the problem. The idea that ranches with an average of one cow per 6 acres are responsible for the nutrient load just doesn't add up. Studies have proven that decreasing the stocking level (cows to acre) made no difference. The phosphorus is already there -- quite likely in the river channel itself. Many locals believe the corps dug through an area high in phosphorus when they channelized the river. The state owns the land next to the river and we know they aren't fertilizing that land. So there must be another source for the phosphorus. There is also a legacy load from past landspreading of biosolids, which was permitted by the state until 2013. The large urban areas trucked the poop to rural areas zoned agriculture, and dumped it (which was legal at the time). It gets counted as "agricultural" load, but it was not dumped to grow anything. It was dumped to get rid of it in the cheapest way possible ... I wonder how many people actually know just what happens to their own waste after they flush. Do you ever ask the utility company where it goes? Or do you just badger public officials to get the lowest price possible? And if you have a septic tank, do you know what happens to it after they pump the tank? Do you just look for the cheapest service possible or do you ask about environmental concerns?

“lake's contaminated water originates on the highly developed northwest side of the Everglades' headwaters“ That’s quite misleading. The waterbodies south of Kissimmee are low in nutrients. As the water flows south it goes through cattle lands and picks up the nutrients that pollute our waters.

I love how I, and many of my colleagues, preached this sermon on a regular basis, from the dais, and yet they act like this is some type of new revelation. Gotta love politics!

That's because they want to take credit and make Floridians forget they were never interested in the Northern Everglades. Got to think finally DeSantis's scientists are telling them to get their behinds up north and drop a line in the water there if they want to make a difference. It's all a big show. You done good, Mr. Tucker. You never disgraced yourself on that dais.

Thank you Governor DeSantis.

Sigh, Nancy . . . . . yes, the SFWMD has long been monitoring water quality north of the lake . . . . . but Rick Scott slashed the agency in 2011 and that resulted in the cut back of water quality monitoring around the District . . . . I can't recall how much was slashed north of the lake, but I know Biscayne Bay monitoring was significantly reduced just before they had major issues in the Bay and there was frustration that monitoring had been slashed and there was no recent data to try and assess what has happening and why . . . . . . . . why don't you report on what happened to the monitoring program (i.e. locations, frequency and monitored parameters) due to Rick Scott's ill conceived major slashing of SFWMD funding and staffing in 2011 . . . . . . you know, honest reporting . . . . and always remember that Everglades restoration has four major water issues --> quality, quantity, timing and location . . . . . you know, getting the right quality of water in the right quantity at the right time to the right location (you know, like in Florida Bay) . . . . . . it isn't only about whether big sugar is causing the quality issues in Lake Okeechobee, for the most part it isn't (backpumping is an exception), but addressing all four issues is critical to having a sustainable Everglades restoration . . . . .

Thank you for the lesson, Frank. But Scott's budget slashing was not the problem for monitoring water quality in the Northern Everglades and you must know it. Since January it has been disinterest in anything but project(s) south of Lake Okeechobee, keeping the focus on the EAA reservoir in particular. I'm grateful Gov. DeSantis is embarking on this double-down monitoring to the north, but before he was elected the District's monitoring revealed problems and board members were talking about solutions, including among others, temporary deep injection wells.

First of all, the potential use of ASR has been proposed since the original Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida (GCSSF) initial report which preceded federal CERP funding . . . . . . that initial GCSSF report included proposals (and later CERP approval) for projects north of the lake . . . . I know, I was there and raised the issue with ACOE staff of why weren't we looking north of the lake early on in the proceedings . . . . . as to any implication as to Rick Scott not having adversely impacted water quality monitoring, here's a few comments from scientists about the issue --> Larry Brand (Univ. Miami scientist) "The water-management district is not doing as much monitoring as they used to. They have a huge network and used to have a great data set and now it's no good anymore ... there's not as much data around as you used to have." . . . Jim Fourqurean (FIU scientist) "You have to have a monitoring program in place to understand if there's a positive response to the money you spend fighting environmental problems ... Without robust monitoring, we can't tell." . . . . . . Karl Havens (Florida Sea Grant Director last summer discussing Lake Okeechobee algal blooms) "No one is out on the lake collecting water samples of the bloom ... We're flying blind." . . . . . . . . and there's many more . . . . . . Rick Scott adversely impacted the environment, in science, in funding, in regulatory oversight, in pollution prevention, in long-range planning . . . . . . . . to try and spin it otherwise . . . . . is simply . . . . . PATHETIC . .

Thank you Frank...Keep on fact-checking this blog. And let us point out the curious absence of any cyanobacteria blooms in any of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes from the city of Kissimmee and Lake Topo. all the way south to Lake Kissimmee in the upper Kissimmee River basin. But then the water quality gets worse in the lower Kissimmee River basin. Where all the agriculture is. This is established SFWMD information and appears in simple to understand graphics but some choose to sow confusion about this in perpetuity. Sad.

Thank you for keeping them honest, Nancy

This state is developing a whole bunch of quality of life issues and the state government has been asleep at the switch for the last 20 years!

blah blah blah...

The article actually does notice additional east, west, and northern monitoring sites . This is great news and a relief from the extreme degradation of the districts and data under Scott. Also, may help support the truth that big sugar is not polluting Lake Okeechobee. I am not a big fan because of what I believe to be unnecessary government subsidies but lies are continuously repeated about them backpumping into Lake O which is strictly propaganda. Repetition does not make it true.

Notice, you only mention the additional northern testing sites, but not the eastern and western additional testing sites. A little biased aren't we...

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