“Florida is defined by its water—the water flowing around it, through it, increasingly over it. But throughout the twentieth century, its major arteries of fresh water, which flowed from the Kissimmee River south of Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and down to the swampy Everglades, were permanently rerouted by the federal government and landowners to stop flooding, and make room for agriculture and housing in the southern part of the state.
Draining the water flow has allowed for bursts of economic growth. Today, Florida’s agriculture industry, some of which sits on former swamp land, is worth $104 billion and employs two million people, and a big part of that is the politically influential sugar industry. But tampering with nature has its consequences. The Everglades, the largest swath of subtropical wilderness in the country, is now half of its size circa 1920, and the ecosystem has deteriorated, losing wildlife and native flora. Without a natural place to flow, stagnant water pushes toxic algae blooms into the rivers, and turns pristine ocean into sludgy waste.
Now the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers—the government agency partly responsible for rerouting and draining water to begin with—and the South Florida Water Management District to attempt the largest hydraulic restoration project in the world. And while some say the effort has turned Florida into a battleground, pitting sugar farmers against legislators and environmentalists, others are hoping this will finally right certain man-made wrongs and restore some balance to the state.”
Its a mess, and it’s going to be expensive to clean up . . .