Tampa Bay Online: Hope on Everglades’ horizon

Despite their political differences, key Florida leaders are showing a united front on behalf of the Everglades, which should encourage citizens who care about the state’s natural wonders.

The recent spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president included $142 million for restoring the Everglades and the Kissimmee River. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill Young of St. Petersburg teamed on the effort to ensure the funding remained in the bill.

The spending is justified. The Everglades, a vast watery network that stretches from Central Florida to Florida Bay, produces most of South Florida’s drinking water. But the unique resource also provides critical habitat, offers countless recreational opportunities and attracts tourists from around the world. The water that flows through the Everglades helps sustain the sport and commercial fishing industries.

But the River of Grass, as author Marjory Stoneman Douglas called it, was damaged through the years by ill-conceived projects – drainage canals, dikes, roads, subdivisions and an array of water-control projects. The natural flow of water through the Everglades was disrupted. Runoff from agricultural operations polluted its waters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized the Kissimmee River. The meandering, vegetated river naturally filtered pollutants; the channel flushed the junk straight into Lake Okeechobee.

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