Report: State lagging in Everglades cleanup


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 11:24 p.m.

WEST PALM BEACH — State water managers are not doing enough to eliminate pollution from Lake Okeechobee and to restore the overall health of the Everglades, according to an Audubon of Florida report released Wednesday.

The group claims more water storage areas need to be constructed north of the lake to clean pollutants before they enter the Everglades system and that the state has not made substantial progress toward meeting federal deadlines for phosphorus cleanup. The state is currently operating its Everglades restoration under court oversight that came from a 1992 settlement reached after the federal government sued Florida for not abiding by its own clean water standards. The deal produced a consent decree under which a federal judge oversees cleanup.

Environmentalists have accused the state of dragging its feet and point to a 2003 amendment to the state's 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Among other things, it extended by up to 10 years to 2016 some pollution cleanup requirements in the consent decree.

which called for phosphorous to be reduced to 10 parts per billion by the end of 2006. The pollution comes from a number of sources, including agricultural runoff and development.

The South Florida Water Management District has noted that marsh filters have reduced phosphorous loads that would have flowed into the Everglades by up to 71 percent since 1994, and that 90 percent of the Everglades are at or below 10 parts per billion for phosphorous.

Critics claim the district's measurements are flawed and that the state must work more aggressively to restore natural water flow.

"No solution that seeks to manage water systems with pumps and other energy-intensive technologies will ever be as sustainable as restoring the natural functions of the system," said David Anderson, Audubon of Florida's executive director. "Fixing Lake Okeechobee is essential to healing these ecosystems."

Officials with the South Florida Water Management District declined to comment Wednesday, saying they were still reviewing the report.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top