Refreshment for the thirsty Everglades

 作者:郇蟊鉴     |      日期:2019-03-02 09:20:00
By VINCENT KIERNAN A long drink of clean, clear water is all that is needed to set Florida’s Everglades on the road to recovery. Last week, the US government and the industries that have been responsible for draining and polluting the Everglades announced a joint plan to rescue them. The $465-million scheme will increase the amount of fresh water running into the marshes and strictly control the amount of polluting phosphates draining into them. The Everglades once stretched from Lake Okee-chobee to the southern coast of Florida. But much of the northern part has been drained for farming, particularly to grow sugar cane. Phosphate pollution from fertilisers promotes the growth of cattails and other problem plants that crowd out native marsh plants. Last week’s agreement stems from the federal government’s decision five years ago to sue the Florida state government over the poor quality of water in the Everglades. That suit generated a rash of further legal wrangles over how to clean up the Everglades. The new scheme would resolve all these legal problems, but leaves many of the details of the cleanup still to be settled. The farmers have agreed to reduce the amount of phosphate running off their land by at least 25 per cent over the next two years. Eventually, this will be reduced by 45 per cent. Six artificial marshes covering more than 16 000 hectares will absorb phosphates before they reach the Everglades. The pact also calls for the construction of a new canal and modifications to several existing canals to increase the amount of water flowing into the Everglades by 25 per cent. Sugar growers and other farming interests in the Everglades region will pay between $232 million and $322 million over 20 years. ‘It asks farmers to pay a lot, much more than we wanted to pay,’ says Nelson Fairbanks, president of the US Sugar Corporation. ‘But it also lets us and our communities survive.’ Improving water quality is only one part of the task, says Steve Parcells of the National Audubon Society, chairman of a coalition of 28 groups that make up the Everglades Coalition. Any attempt at restoration must also re-establish the natural cycles of rising and falling water levels that have been disrupted by dikes, canals and other human intervention, he says. Breeding birds, for instance, depend on a regular drop in the water level. This concentrates fish in pools and provides a ready supply of food at a critical time of year. The Everglades Coalition has its own vision for restoring the Everglades. This includes the acquisition of 40 000 hectares of the marshes, as well as some agricultural and residential land. The plan also calls for an overhaul of the way water is managed in south Florida, and the dismantling of many dikes and canals. ‘The plan calls for re-creating the natural Everglades system – somewhat smaller than the original – but complete,