Wars of the Waters
There are about 18 million Florida residents who directly or indirectly make their living from the visits of the 50 million tourists who come here every year. Why do you think they come here? This place is beautiful and magical– the critters, the flowers, the waters, the Everglades, the history it is all absolutely enchanting. What is disenchanting is the runaway sprawl and the devastation to our swamp and it’s water quality and the resultant effects on lives.
The coastal areas of Florida are beige on a satellite view. When you zoom in a bit more you’ll see the ant-like cars moving slowly in traffic. Within these beige areas along the coasts there are towns that can be redone, rebuilt, restored. Prosperity and development can live on without devouring any more of the everglades and its endowments to us. We just need to insist.
In the middle of Florida just south of Lake Okeechobee is a huge dike that stops the flow of water that created the Everglades. This area is beige on a satellite view as well. This dike was built and canals were dug to enhance development and sugar plantations and cattle ranching. The run off and phosphorus is killing the Everglades. Why should we care? The river of grass, the panthers, the wild orchids, and the fact that its slow flow into the estuaries of the tip of Florida serves as fish nurseries and it sits on top of the aquifer that gives us drinking water and there is no other place on earth like it and if we can’t save it then it is a message to the world that we failed.
Well–other than that you must at least care about the otters. The happy resourceful otters are disappearing. Otters play just for the sake of playing. (like us) What is bad for them is bad for us. So while your crawling along in traffic think about the otters. When is the last time you saw one?
The enormous growth of metropolitan Atlanta, and the resulting increase in water withdrawals from the Chattahoochee river have an effect on the oysters in the Apalachicola Bay in Northern Florida. The oysters depend on the brackish water mixture of river and ocean water. “Water transfers” also occur prior to reaching Apalachicola Bay. Water is withdrawn from the Chattahoochee, then discharged as treated sewage water into another river, such as the Oconee River, which flows to the Atlantic Seaboard. The Congress of the United States has been asked to intervene in the fight between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama over rights to the river water. The lawsuit is now in court, and that may take quite a few years to resolve.
Why should you care? You don’t like oysters? You may be interested to know that each oyster individually filters 50 gallons of water per day. Oysters are to bays and estuaries as our kidneys are to us, we die without them.
Florida has a strong and powerful nature conservancy, Audubon Society and Ocean Conservancy. It also has powerful developers, ranchers and plantation owners who employ the masses (as well as immigrants). A constant war is ongoing. A war that has never been won by either side, but, much has been lost. I look at the empty concrete strip malls that have been a result of too much too fast and the swamp land that was filled between dredged canals. Another CVS replaces the eagle nest, a banyan tree that ended its 50 year life to a blockbuster store that is now defunct, another mangrove island (fish nursery) losing its life to another development. I think some just love the fight no matter the devastation.
- Apalachicola Bay is one of the most productive estuarine systems in the Northern hemisphere as a result of the overall good water quality.
- Apalachicola Bay is an exceptionally important nursery area for the Gulf of Mexico.
- Over 95% of all species harvested commercially and 85% of all species harvested recreationally in the open Gulf have to spend a portion of their life in estuarine waters. Blue crabs, for example, migrate as much as 300 miles to spawn in Apalachicola Bay.
- Apalachicola Bay is a major forage area for such offshore fish species as gag grouper and gray snapper.
- The area is a major forage area for migratory birds, in particular for trans-gulf migrants in the spring.