By: Brandon Tucker, Sunshine State News
Last week I read a guest column from Florida Oceanographic Society Exexutive Director Mark Perry on TCPalm.com, headlined "Flawed water delivery system continues to imperil estuaries."
I have known Mr. Perry for years and know that he cares deeply about South Florida’s environment and the beauty and health of its waters. I know he means well in his efforts. However, some of his statements within the piece are factually impaired. Sure, advocates need support to further their goals, but key facts must be presented to a readership seeking to truly make a difference. That’s the right thing to do.
As a lifelong Treasure Coast resident who volunteers time to serve on the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board, I want nothing more than to “get the water right” throughout our 16 counties. But this Board cannot “get the water right” when inaccurate information makes its rounds to our constituents.
Misinformation results in a domino effect that can have real consequences on the future of restoration in South Florida. False information is published, the public accepts it as fact, campaigns of support are raised and media channels use this misinformation as if it were gospel. This can cause delays to existing restoration efforts or cause the leapfrogging of projects that are key to resolving the very problem being espoused. A clear and complete understanding of how water management works in South Florida is necessary for us all to collectively make headway on restoration.
Mr. Perry has been around South Florida long enough to know the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has full control and responsibility over Lake Okeechobee and has full authority to make any releases from Lake Okeechobee for public safety. When Mr. Perry states that on June 1, “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District began discharging billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee,” he is using sleight of hand. The District does not release water to the estuaries, and Mr. Perry and the newspaper that published his column know better.
To make it perfectly clear, SFWMD is a flood control agency. In addition to our extensive restoration efforts, our primary mission is to protect all land, families and businesses from flooding. We provide flood protection for 8.1 million residents in 16 counties the same way.
If Mr. Perry truly wanted to support real solutions, ones that can actually be completed and make a difference, he should stand behind programs like SFWMD’s study of "emergency estuary protection wells," also known as deep injection wells, that could divert excess water in emergency situations when it would otherwise get sent unchecked to the estuaries…