A Letter from BTT Vice Chair Bill Horn | Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
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A Letter from BTT Vice Chair Bill Horn

Hon. Holly Raschein
209 House Ofc Bldg.
402 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
 
Dear Rep. Raschein:
 
I urge you to strongly support prompt enactment of SB 10/ HB 761 and make passage of this important
measure one of your highest priority items for this session. Florida Bay is in dire straits and without
timely infusions of additional clean fresh water via the Everglades, especially Taylor Slough, the Bay is
nearing an ecological tipping point from which it may never recover. Similar, less damaging conditions
in the Bay – 30 years ago – created the impetus for Everglades restoration yet here we are again; our
Keys can no longer afford the tortured and tortoise like pace of restoration. Construction of new
Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA’s) south of Lake Okeechobee, as authorized by SB 10/HB 761, is the
only relatively immediate measure available to provide Florida Bay clean water (i.e.; <10 ppb
phosphorus) in desperately needed greater quantities.
 
The observations, facts and comments below are offered from four personal perspectives: first as a
Marathon resident and voter, second as former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and
Parks under President Reagan, third as a former four year member (2007-2010) of the National
Academy of Sciences Everglades Restoration Review Committee, and fourth as Vice Chairman of the
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. I have been engaged on Everglades and Florida Bay issues for over 30 years
and the optimism that attended enactment of the 1988 East Everglades and Modified Water Deliveries
Act, the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), and Florida’s Acceler8 has all but
evaporated in the face of incessant delays and return of fouled pea soup water to Florida Bay (and the
St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries).
 
“Getting the water right” has been the mantra of the Everglades restoration efforts. In simple terms,
clean water that once flowed south from Lake Okeechobee in a river miles wide and inches deep
emptied into Florida Bay via the Everglades and Taylor Slough. The natural mix of clean fresh and salt
water in the Bay created an estuary of unparalleled productivity supporting outstanding populations of
fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, by the mid-60’s, the Everglades had been dammed, ditched, and diked
diverting most of Lake O’s water to the Atlantic. The water starved ‘Glades and Bay suffered badly and
by the mid-80’s a combination of too little fresh water (and concomitant hyper salinity) and poor quality
fresh water (loaded with phosphorus) spurred in the Bay widespread seagrass die offs and subsequent
algae blooms. The algae rendered the water a turbid pea soup green, killing more grass, killing prey
organisms, and driving away fish. The Bay was in a death spiral. It acted as a wake up call creating the
impetus for the 1988 and 2000 Congressional actions and parallel State commitments to restoration.
Fast forward to 2010. The plans to send greater quantities of clean fresh water south from Okeechobee,
to restore a semblance of natural flows, ran into two fundamental problems: untreated Lake water is
too dirty (approximately 100 ppb phosphorus) to send into the ‘Glades (with a federal-state water
quality standard of < 10 ppb phosphorus) and present STA’s are insufficient to store, clean up, and
release the quantities of fresh water needed for a healthy Everglades and Bay. Since it will take 40 or
more years for the Lake to clean itself, the 2010 National Academy of Sciences Everglades committee
identified more STA’s as the best immediate option: “increasing water storage (and associated water
quality treatment) is a major near term priority.” Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades, Third
Biennial Review- 2010, National Research Council of the National Academies, p. 147. SB 10/HB 761 does
just that. And this priority for more STA’s south of Okeechobee was identified before the 2015 return of
devastating hyper salinity and algae blooms in the Bay made the need for additional STA’s even greater.
 
Opponents of SB 10/HB 761 appear to claim that there are alternatives to more STA’s south of the Lake.
There may be “alternatives” but none are effective or efficient. One is a new STA north of the Lake
where it will do no good for Florida Bay. Limiting phosphorus inputs for the Lake from the Kissimmee
system is an important long term strategy, but the short term effect on the Lake’s 100 ppb phosphorus
level will be non-existent . Hence, a STA north of the Lake does nothing to address the shortage of clean
water, desperately needed now in the Everglades and Bay, south of the Lake.
 
Similarly there seem to be efforts to resurrect Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) as an alternative to
southside STA’s. ASR was part of the original plans but has failed the test in the interim 16 years; trying
to store vast quantities of water underground, and simultaneously attempting to clean up that water,
simply doesn’t work on the scales needed for restoration. By 2010 ASR was rejected by a wide array of
Everglades scientists as ineffective and inefficient especially compared to the proven STA technology.
Trying to resurrect ASR is just a misdirection play and a transparent stall tactic.
 
The bottom line is that (1)new STA’s south of Okeechobee are needed to store, clean up and send
needed freshwater to the Everglades and Florida Bay and (2) SB 10/HB 761start the process for new
STA’s. Since there are no good alternatives, and STA’s represent a proven and cost effective technology,
prompt enactment and implementation of these measures is necessary if we want to have a fighting
chance to save Florida Bay.
 
Please let me know if I can assist you or your office in any way regarding this and other
Everglades/Florida Bay issues.
                                                                         
                                                                                Sincerely,
                                                                                William P. Horn
Cc: Hon. George Neugent
      Hon. David Rice