Government efforts to restore the ecological health of Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are under fire from Florida environmental groups.
The projects on the table are well-intentioned, say several organizations. But the astronomical costs and unrealistic projections won't restore wetlands and conserve water resources, and are nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money and resources, an environmental group says.
The restoration of the Florida Everglades is part of the multi-billion dollar project -- the Water Resources Development and Reform Act -- approved by Congress in 2000 to improve, conserve and develop U.S. rivers and harbors.
But some enviros say such projects -- particularly those focusing on improving Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir and the reservoir and storm water treatment area south of the Indian River Lagoon -- don't have sufficient capacity to handle the massive amount of contaminated water flowing from Lake Okeechobee.
"In fact, all the reservoirs to be built under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including those on the East Coast, will not provide enough water storage from Lake Okeechobee to alleviate the massive release of polluted water causing adverse harm to our estuaries," said Ray Judah, a former Lee County commissioner who now works for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, a group of organizations working together to conserve, protect and restore Florida's coastal and marine environment.
When the projects were finalized, the original water-flow projections were based on the 30-year period from 1965 to 1995, a time when the state was exceptionally dry.