Nov. 11, 2010
Much to our disappointment, the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District yesterday failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the Caloosahatchee and its estuary would get the fresh water it needs to stay healthy during the dry season. High salinity has already killed 600 acres of tape grass, which is critical to the estuary’s circle of life.
Almost 40 people joined with PURRE in speaking to the board members at yesterday’s meeting, urging them to grant the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s petition to change the district’s rule on how much water is released down the river during dry periods. The district claims 300 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) is enough to prevent significant harm to the estuary, while the petition – and those in favor of it, including biologists and scientists – asks for 450 cfs and claims there is at least 36 years of good solid science to support that number.
Others, though, turned to their common sense to insist 300 cfs is not enough – they’re watching the estuary suffer. Anglers, divers, birders, boaters, wind surfers, swimmers, and people who live on the river all shared personal experiences of its deterioration. Speaking on behalf of PURRE and its members, I also shared my personal experience as someone who lives on a canal at the very spot where the Caloosahatchee meets San Carlos Bay. I’ve written to you before about the horrors my wife and I have witnessed. Empirical evidence, provided by so many, combined with good solid science, is powerful evidence indeed – but still not enough, apparently, for the South Florida Water Management District.
The governing board’s vote on whether or not to approve the petition was 4-4 (the ninth member earlier resigned to run for office), leaving the inadequate 350 cfs standard unchanged. Governing board member Charles Dauray, who represents Lee, Collier, Hendry, and Charlotte counties, said during board comments that it was a “certainty that at 300 cfs or lower, we will continue to lose sea grasses and the basis for our quality of life and economy in southwest Florida.” Dauray made the motion to approve the petition. After the vote, he said, “With the dry season coming, we’re playing Russian roulette, and I’m afraid the river is going to suffer.”
We hope to be able to make another push for action prior to the district’s December meeting in West Palm Beach when the issue is to be taken up again. We will be in touch with you as events develop. Thank you for supporting PURRE in its efforts.
Michael J. Valiquette, Chairman