Land use issues may provide the next big arena for national public debate. As population pressures increase and the environmental movement gains strength, there will be a significant increase in disputes between private homeowners, corporations, environmental groups, the scientific community, and the governmental agencies whose job it is to legislate land use issues. The restoration of the Everglades is said to be the largest ecosystem restoration ever attempted. The social implications of this project are large as well. As the ground water in Everglades National Park is raised a rural farming community-the 8.5 square mile area- floods. The entire restoration effort has stopped while governmental agencies bicker about what is to be done. Over one thousand people live in this area. Public perceptions about the area and the people in it are influenced by inaccurate accounts of the situation portrayed in the local media. This project aims to document the way land use decisions are made. Which social groups have the authority to make decisions? On what is their authority based? If we are to both provide an increase in environmental quality and preserve the rights of all the involved social groups, decisions must be made in a fair and equitable way. How these land use issues are resolved here in South Florida may be an indication of what is in store for the rest of the nation in years to come.
Looking at a map of Dade County, Florida you get the immediate impression that the entire county is one big urban sprawl, seeping out from downtown Miami. Towns merge, one into the other, with no open space between them. Anyone moving into the area who wanted to live in a less populated neighborhood might look for places on the county map that showed larger areas of open land. One long, straight road in the western part of the county, Krome Avenue, might stand out. This road travels north and south almost the entire length of Dade County, from the city of Homestead, north past the Tamiami Trail to end at Route 27. On some county maps there are few roads shown west of Krome Avenue. You might notice that west of Krome Ave. there is a lot more open space shown. You might also notice something else. West of Krome Ave. there is another long, straight line going north and south. At first glance it looks like a road but it is a canal-L31 North. No Dade County maps show any roads west of L-31 N. It appears as though no one at all lives west of the canal and few people live west of Krome Ave.
The impression that these county maps gives you is false. West of Krome Avenue there is a large, thriving agricultural community, filled with fields of seasonal vegetables and groves of tropical fruit trees interspersed with homes and ranches. If you were to drive south on Krome Avenue from Kendall Drive, you would go past field after field of vegetables. The third paved road south of Kendall Drive is 168 Street. On the corner there is a sign for Chekika National Park. If you turned west on 168 Street, you would be driving along a two-lane, paved, county road lined with fields of vegetables, groves of trees and homes. Barn swallows play in the air and white ibis and cattle egrets patrol the lawns and plowed fields. About 6 miles west of Krome Ave., you cross over L-31 North. The land on the west side of the canal appears the same as the land on the east side. You would still be passing fields of malanga, okra, and sweet potatoes. There would be the same lime groves and orchards of mangoes, mamee, bananas and coconuts. The homes look the same. But the L-31 N canal is a dividing line. If you live west of L-31 N, your life will be different than if you lived east of the canal. If you live on the east side of the canal you can obtain a building permit from the county to build a home, on the west side of the canal you can not get a permit unless you have 40 acres of land. On the east side of the canal homes have rural mail service, on the west side you get your mail at a group of locked boxes on the side of the two paved roads. If you live east of L-31N and you call the police or fire department or an ambulance, you would be fairly certain that they would arrive at your home in a timely manner. West of L-31 N you would be lucky if anyone showed up at all. People who live west of L-31 N are told that they are not eligible for the same flood protection that people east of L-31 N receive. On the east side of L-31 N you live in unincorporated Dade County, west of L-31 N you enter the 8.5 square mile area, or Pariah, Florida.
There are only a few small, unmarked dirt tracks that travel south from 168 St., but there are 14 unpaved roads that travel north. They have county-made street signs-from 197 Avenue to 218 Avenue. All the roads are unpaved, although some are in better condition than others. If you turned north and drove up any of the avenues, you might see small flocks of ducks or guinea hens wandering down the side of the road. Or, if it was the weekend, you might see people on horseback, riding in small groups with a few dogs following along. Along these dirt roads you would notice homes ranging from a small, dilapidated travel trailer parked, almost hidden, under a huge strangler fig, to a two hundred thousand dollar home and horse farm, picture pretty and neat, with painted stalls and neatly manicured lawns.
As you travel further west from the canal on 168 Street, the land drops slightly (6 to 12 inches) in elevation and the avenues become more "adventurous". During the rainy season some avenues are almost totally under a shallow sheet of water approximately 4-12 inches deep (except for the potholes which may increase the water depth to over two feet.) If you were to drive up these flooded roads at a normal rate of speed, you would get a wall of spray from your front tires (like they do in the jeep commercials on TV) and youd quickly stall out and stop. You have to drive as slow as possible, in first gear, to prevent splashing water onto your spark plugs or distributor cap. Even along these almost impassable roads, you would find neat, family-style homes with well-kept yards, and prosperous looking farms and plant nurseries. You might wonder what would induce people to live under such difficult conditions. Where, as Army Corps of Engineers documents state "Access roadways are inundated by water and residences become isolated islands in the surrounding flood waters". (ACE, Modified Waters Deliveries to Everglades National Park, H-20)
If you drove north up 218 Avenue, the farthest avenue west with homes on it, right about now, in late September, you might see the black silhouette of a kingfisher perched on the electric line, hunting small fish or tadpoles in the flooded road bed. Just before sunset, you might see flocks of white ibis, with their curved beaks, flying north in loose formations, just above the tree tops. Or you might see flocks of snowy egrets and great blue herons, all heading north and slightly west, going to where ever flocks of birds go at sundown.
Evening is the prettiest time out here in the East Everglades. The heat of the day starts to diminish in intensity and the hard, white sunlight becomes softer. Along the western edge of this small developed area you can look north or west and not see another house, something you cant do anywhere else in Dade County. During the rainy season, there are thunderstorms almost every afternoon. You can see the thunder heads, blue-gray in the western distance as they sweep across the marl prairie with their skirts of rain. When they pass in front of the setting sun, the rain turns gold and the clouds pink and purple.
If you stopped your car and set still for a time, you might see marsh rabbits on higher ground. Sometimes, when it gets darker, you can see little points of light, out in grass-lightning bugs. I havent seen lightening bugs anywhere else in Dade County.
You can see the stars at night, as well. Street lights block your view of the stars in the rest of the county.
The area seems peaceful, if somewhat depressed economically. It would not be apparent to the causal observer that this area, the "8.5 square mile area", is at the center of a controversy that has raged for almost 20 years and involved all levels of government, from local to state to federal agencies. How did this small, peaceful neighborhood become so important? How did the residents land in the middle of what is said to be the largest restoration effort of its kind ever attempted?
In the process of attempting to restore historic patterns of water to Everglades National Park, the level of the ground water in the park has been raised. The precise effects of this raised ground water on surrounding communities is not yet fully understood, but it is certain that some surrounding communities will be negatively impacted. (Graham, et. el.,1997, pg. 7) Pariah, Florida is one such community. The entire restoration effort has stopped, while the issue of flood control for the area is debated. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) project, the Modified Water Deliveries Project, calls for the raising of the ground water in the Park in incremental stages, or iterations. The water table can be raised no further until this area is either bought out, which could take years, or some form of flood protection is provided.
Of course, I didnt know any of this when I bought my house. I just kept driving around, out in the County, until, at the end of a pretty good dirt road, I came to a house with a "For Sale By Owner" sign on the gate. I though, "Oh God, please let me be able to buy this house!" You have to be careful what you ask for.
The title for my research paper was suggested by one of my professors at Florida International University. A pariah is an outcast, a despised person or animal. During my research I have been continually surprised by the way the area is portrayed in the press and by elected officials and appointed bureaucrats from all levels of government. The effect of this misrepresentation can be summed up by the response of one local TV news editor. I had been calling local TV stations in an attempt to get some coverage of the fact that the entire area was flooded and people had been stranded in their homes for over a week. The water in the roads was three feet deep in places. I had not been able to leave my home for ten days. I finally talked with a TV news editor whose response to the flooding was, "Thats what you get for living there!" Then she slammed down the phone.
How did this area come to be settled in the first place? How did it happen that so many people were allowed to build their homes here? Situations like this will become increasing more common as our population increases. It might be useful to look at this area and how it came to be settled. What sort of people live here? What do they know about what is happening to them? What is their understanding of the forces that are shaping their lives? How are their lives being affected?
My masters thesis, Pariah, Florida, seeks to answer these questions in an attempt to document and understand the physical and social forces that are shaping our land use patterns. This paper will serve as an introduction for my finished project. First, I will describe the study area and give a brief development history. Then I will discuss the results of a small survey I conducted to gauge the understanding of area residents concerning the restoration. Then I will briefly explain some important elements of the Everglades ecosystem and how man has impacted this system. Next, I will outline the stated objectives of the involved institutional players and contrast this with what appears to actually be taking place. I discuss one aspect of the restoration issue, the possible extinction of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, to highlight some of the controversy surrounding the restoration effort.
The 8.5 square mile area is located in the East Everglades ecosystem in western Dade County, Florida. (See Figure #1) I have not been able to find out exactly how it got the name 8.5 square mile area. I have asked numerous people how the name came into being, but no one is sure. It may have come into common usage to distinguish the residential area from the rest of the East Everglades tract, that "does not have a residential character." It does not appear to be an official title, only a designation. It is closer in size to nine and a half square miles.
The area lies in Township 55, Range 38 and includes Sections 11, 14, 23, 15, 22, 27, 21, 28, and parts of Sections 29, 16, and 26. The area is west of L-31 North, with the canal forming the eastern boundary of the area. The southern boundary is 168 Street (Richmond Drive). The northern boundary is 104 Street while the western boundary stair steps down. The avenues run west from 192 to 221. 218 Avenue is the most western avenue with homes on it. Not all streets and avenues mentioned are actually drivable roads. For example, much farther east, 152 Street is a major road with its own turnpike exit. Metro Zoo is located on 152 Street, but out here it is only passable to regular vehicular traffic in a few places. The two main paved roads in the area are 168 Street and 136 Street, and except for a short stretch of 192 Avenue south from 136 Street, and a stretch of 199 Avenue north from 136 Street, all the rest are dirt roads in varying stages of disrepair. There is another paved road, 237 Avenue, that provides access to Chekika Park, but it is west of this area. In some places, roads shown on maps of the area are not drivable in anything but a four-wheel drive vehicle. Its possible to tell where roads used to be by the lines of Australian Pines that have sprouted up in the disturbed earth along the edges of these roads. These lines of trees stretch many miles far out into the marl prairie.
Access is limited- there are only three ways into the area. All involve crossing L-31 N. There are cement bridges on 136 and 168 Street. There is a steel bridge behind the Homestead Airport that connects up with dirt roads that eventually connect up with 237 Avenue, and hence with 168 Street.
It is difficult to try and get information on the area from the Dade County government. I was told that tax data on the area "was not available." Then I was told that the only way to get a figure on the amount of property taxes the area has generated was for me to come in and go through the Countys files and write it all down myself using the tax folio numbers from each of the sixteen hundred pieces of property. I eventually obtained property tax data from a County service that does nothing but provide people and companies with this type of County information. According to these Dade Count tax records, the total value of the area is $70,204,361. With the "homestead exemption" that many rural property owners qualify for the assessed value for taxes falls to $49,568,871. The Dade County Property Appraisers office finally sent me a letter stating that the total assessed value of the area in 1996 was $47,700,940. This looks like the amount of money people paid for their property taxes, not the assessed value of all the property.
Also according to data from the information office there area:
To estimate the property taxes collected from the area since the zoning overlay ordinance went into effect in 1981, I took the taxes for 1996 -$1,1162,616 and multiplied this number by 16 years to give an estimated property tax revenue of $18,601,856. For this amount of money the area does not have drivable roads, rural mail delivery, County garbage pickup, street lights, municipal water or sewer services, reliable fire rescue or police service. Area residents are also charged a fee for "Storm Water Run Off" by the Metro-Dade Storm Water Utility, Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM).
The Federal Government has one parcel assessed at $3,001,851.00 where there is a communications tower. There are 5 parcels with permitted uses of food processing or industrial. Due to the restrictive zoning (discussed later) many people found that when they wanted to use their property, they were unable to do so legally and so resorted to subterfuge. Many of the 81 parcels of land used for agriculture and the 103 parcels with "added features" have some sort of living structure on them. There are several small camps of travel trailers that house migrant laborers. Many structures are difficult to see from the road due to the rampant growth of such exotic plants as elephant grass and Brazilian pepper. The 24 parcels zoned for "parking" are fenced parcels that could contain anything. There is little need to have so much land used for parking in this rural area, but it is a way to get the County to allow you to fence your property. Counting the legally permitted homes and the parcels with "extra features" plus the agricultural land gives 445 possible dwellings. The ACE lists 450 residents in the area (ACE, Modified Water Deliveries, H-13). I have counted four hundred and thirty one properties with at least one habitable structure on it. The number of actual residences is higher than this, however. There are many properties that can not be visually examined from the road, as well as many properties with more than one livable structure on them.
Hydrology and Water Control Features
The most important features in and near the area are the canals and levees build by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and managed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). (See Figure #2) Besides conveying water, these structures control the level of the ground water and the rate at which rain water drains off. Thus, they control the depth and duration of all flooding events.
The most significant water control structure for the area is L-31 North, the drainage canal and earthen levee that forms the eastern boundary of the area. There is a pump station, S-331, where L-31 N crosses 168 Street. Further upstream in L-31N, there is a manually operated, gated structure, G-211. Just north of G-211 another canal, C-1 splits off from L-31N and carries water east, out into Biscayne Bay via S-29A at Black Point. S-338 is a manually operated structure in C-1 just west of where the canal crosses Krome Avenue. Approximately 13 miles west of L-31 N there is another canal, L-67 Extension. I have gotten conflicting reports about this canal. I dont know whether it was intended to dead-end ten miles south from the Tamiami Trail to facilitate the delivery of water to Everglades National Park (ENP), or whether this segment of canal was the start of a "de-authorized " project. I have a map from the ACE that shows this canal as part of a longer canal system that would have encased the entire East Everglades in a system of canals. (Fig. 3) Presently the canal dead ends in Shark River Slough. It cuts diagonally across the traditional path of water flow in Shark River Slough. I will go into more detail about this canal later on in this paper.
According to some area residents, the small canals that run east and west along 168 Street. and the larger canal on the east side of 237 Avenue, that runs north and south, were built by ARVIDA, a large land developer at the same time that 168 St. was built. Other residents think that this small canal system was built by the Air Force after World War II. At that time the Air Force had communication towers along 237 Avenue. and some people feel that the Air Force built the roads and the canal system. The official County position is that these canals are "barrow ditches" that supplied fill for the construction of 168 Street and do not constitute "drainage." Aerial photos show that these two canals used to empty into another canal south of the area-C-102. Other area residents state that these small canals used to drain into L-31 N but in 1979 the County blocked the flow of water from the small drainage system and prevented it from draining into L-31 N. I have asked for information on these canals from Dade County Planning Department and they denied that the canals exist. I am unable to find any construction or permit information on these canals or on 168 St. although I have tried through various county and federal agencies. I cant say for certain who built them or their original purpose, although it is fairly certain that they were built to provide some sort of drainage for the area. There are large culverts every quarter mile along 168 Street to allow water to flow south under the roadbed from one canal to the other.
The first section of L-31N was completed in 1952 and it was enlarged in 1979. The pump station S-331 was completed in February 1983 (Graham, et. el. 6/6/97, pg.18 &19, Merritt, pg. 37, 38). Before that time, 168 Street did not run straight from Krome Avenue. Residents had to take a round about route to get home. I am told by a private hydrology consultant, that when L-31 N was completed in 1952, the study area became wetter than it had been previously due to water seeping out of the canal into the surrounding land. Then when L-67 Ext. was built, the area dried out again. Area residents dispute this. They feel that the water that floods the area comes from the end of L-67 Ext. via an air boat trail and the small system of canals.
This area is dependent on canals, just as most of South Florida is dependent on canals. The original hydrology of the entire Everglades watershed system has been so altered by water control structures that little is left of the original sheet flow patterns. It is uncertain what the original height of the water table in the study area was, but it was probably close to, or at the surface for part of the rainy season. A US Geological Survey map (Fig. 4) shows the area as "rarely subjected to wet-season, freshwater inundation (Merritt, pg.23).
Elevation is, understandably, a great concern for the area. Just one more foot above sea level can make a huge difference in whether or not a piece of land is usable. For this reason, the elevation of the area is a hotly contested issue. It has been impossible to find a map that everyone agrees is accurate. This problem effects all the land in western Dade County that is being impacted by the rising of the water levels in ENP, not just the study area. The University of Florida has criticized the ACE and SFWMD for not getting more accurate elevations before modeling water flows into and near the Park (Graham, et. el. pg. 10 ).
The SFWMD states that the majority of the land in the study area is at 6.5 feet or less. The ACE gave me a map that shows land elevations near L-31N to be from 8 to 7.5 feet above sea level. According to this map, the land drops approximately one foot in elevation as you travel west. About one half of the area is from 6.5 to 7 feet above sea level, one fourth is 7 or 8 feet above sea level and one fourth is 6 to 6.5 feet above sea level.
The underlying rock formations are made up of Miami oolite, a creamy white layer of oolitic limestone filled with vertical solution holes. (USDA. 1948 pg. 23) It was termed the "most permeable substrate every investigated by the USDA". (USDA. 1948, pg. 22). When rain falls, it is absorbed by the limestone and enters the aquifer. As the water level in Shark River Slough is raised, this water percolates down into the aquifer. As water is added, the aquifer raises, until it is above the surface of the ground. While the study area has been flooded several times in the past, it is unclear whether this is a normal occurrence that would have happened if there were no water control features or whether it is the result of human manipulation of the water levels. In unfilled places on the western edge of the area, the surface of the ground is pinnacle rock without any peat buildup. Anywhere that people have homes or farms has probably had fill added so it is difficult to tell what the original elevation of the area was. Because peat only forms in an area that is inundated for a good part of the year, it seems unlikely that this area was part of the original sheet flow pattern, although the area probably did experience some short periods of inundation during the rainy season. The map in Figure 4 shows the study area as being clearly outside the flow pattern of Shark River Slough.
In 1952 and 1953, a man named Barney Walden bought 70,000 acres of land in the East Everglades on behalf of DAWAL Farms. Mr. Walden states that the western property boundary was 35 miles long. The land was eventually quit-claimed to ARVIDA. ARVIDA is one of the largest construction and development firms in Florida. It was founded by Arthur Vining Davis who named the company after himself. The word DAWAL is made up of Davis and Walden. It isnt possible now to know what Mr. Davis meant to do with this land at the time it was purchased. Mr. Walden thinks he was going to run cattle on it. If that were true then the area would have had to have more peat build up than it does now. Currently, the pinnacle rock is right at the surface. Its like the craters of the moon and it would not be possible to run cattle on it because they couldnt walk on it without lacerating their feet.
In the early 1960s the Miami International Airport was going to be built in the middle of the Everglades, just north of the Tamiami Trail. South of the study area there was going to be a large manufacturing concern building the engines for the space shuttle. The company, Aerojet got as far as having a canal dug out to Biscayne Bay for transportation of the engines up to Cape Canaveral. The Corps of Engineers had plans to build a canal west of the area, providing flood control (see Fig. 3). All of this fell through in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The airport got as far as building some of the runways, when construction was stopped by conservation groups. Aerojet lost its contract with the space program and it was discovered that if a canal cut diagonally across Shark River Slough, what little water the Park did get would be stopped. At that time the big concern was salt water intrusion into the coastal well system. When the ground water level fell along the coast, salt water seeped in to take its place (Merritt, pg. 2). There was much concern about protecting the supply of drinking water for the entire South Florida area and building on the canal was halted.
At this point ARVIDA had 70,000 worthless acres of land. Much of the land had been bought from the Sate of Florida, via the Internal Improvement Fund and Model Lands Company. Instead of selling the land back to the State of Florida, it appears that the land was sold to private developers and subdivided. I have spoken with the man who subdivided much of the study area. Hes ninety one years old and still selling real estate. He said he bought land, a section at a time, and subdivided it. He states that he fulfilled all Dade County requirements for rural land sales at the time. He subdivided the land into less than fifty parcels and build two-lane, unpaved roads with ten foot wide and four foot deep drainage ditches along either side of the roads. He then deeded the right-of-way to the County and the County accepted these rigth-of-way dedications. He calls area residents the "forgotten people". He told me, "I sold people land that they could drive to and stand on".
There is much discussion about the Countys role in this, but the fact remains that the development did not stop until the early 1980s when a zoning overlay ordinance was implemented, limiting density to one house on 40 acres. The people who owned lots on which they had not already built, over 1100 according to Dade Count tax records, were now unable to use their 2.5 to 5 acre plots. They couldnt use them nor could they sell them since no one else could use them either.
When the zoning overlay ordinance went into effect, it included the entire East Everglades tract. Another ordinance was passed at the same time, making it mandatory that all new purchasers be made aware that the property was unsuitable for residential use due to flooding and that the County would not build, repair or maintain any roads in the area. The 8.5 square mile area was exempted from this disclosure law by order of the County Commission.
And there the matter stayed. The study area has been granted flood control four times. In 1985 The Everglades National Park/East Everglades National Park Resource Planning and Management Committee, appointed by Gov. Graham, stated in Policy statement number 1: "So that restoration of the Northeast Shark River Slough can proceed, flood protection based on a 1-in-10 year storm event for the 8.5 square mile area should be provided without respect to the possibility of impacts from the Northeast Shark River Slough water deliveries."
In 1988 the East Everglades Land Acquisition Task Force, appointed by Gov. Martinez, did not recommend acquisition of the area. The ENP Superintendent commented that "...the Park would be in favor of the flood protection project for the 8.5 square mile area." The ACE stated that they were designing a flood protection plan for the area.
In 1989 the Everglades National Park Expansion Act was clear in its recommendations for flood control for the area. It states "...the Secretary of the Army is authorized and directed to construct a flood protection system." It also states that the flood protection system is "justified by the environmental benefits...and shall not require further economic justification."
Then in 1994 the wording was changed from "flood protection" to "flood mitigation". Flood mitigation is different from flood protection. Mitigation states that the raising of the ground water in Shark River Slough will not negatively impact the area, but it would not be protected from flooding events caused by localized rainfall. ACE documents state that residents would not be provided with more flood protection that they experienced during the "pre-project" condition. This means that the ground water in the study area would not be allowed to raise up higher than it would have if the operating criteria for the Central and South Florida Project had not been changed. The ACE, however, declines to say just what level the ground water would be held at. They describe this decision not to name a water level as providing them with "greater project flexibility."
I have been trying to find out why flood protection was changed to mitigation. I have filed a "freedom of information request" with the ACE in September 1997, requesting copies of all documents concerning the matter but I have not yet received them. I did, however, receive over 1500 pages of documents from the ACE, none of which addressed the issue of changing flood protection to flood mitigation. I was told by someone in the ACE that the decision was made in Washington, by lawyers for the ACE and was very controversial at the time. This person thought that flood control was changed to flood mitigation to save money. It appears that I may have to take the ACE to Federal Court to have my freedom of information request fulfilled.
Effects Of The Restoration On The Study Area
Currently, the SFWMD has begun buying homes and property from "willing sellers" and then bulldozing them. The area has been wet almost continually from September 1994 until now. The roads are all but impassable in many places. Because of the constant flooding and the interest shown by the SFWMD in the area, land is totally worthless. No one will buy into the area and banks will not lend money for purchases in the area. The SFWMD has no approved use for the land nor do they have a budget for the construction or maintenance of any project. I asked the director of the SFWMD at a public meeting why his agency was buying land when they had no approved use for it and no budget. He answered, "We feel that we may need it for something, some time in the future".
The director of ENP as well as the director of SFWMD both state that they intend to take the issue to Congress to get permission to do what they called a "quick take". This would give them the power to have the land condemned all at once and the appraised value of the land deposited in a bank in the owners name. If you agreed with the price, you could sign the papers and get the money. If you did not agree with the price, you could take the issue to court. In the mean time, you would not have access to your money and you would be out of your home. This would be financially and emotionally devastating to most people in the area. Residents are generally low-income and Spanish speaking. They have no idea of their rights and some people have told me that "I have no choice, the Water Management told me I have to sell to them now!"
The area is culturally mixed with the predominate ethnic group being Hispanic, mainly Cuban although there are people from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombian, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The main language is Spanish. Land use is agricultural. There are several large commercial agricultural enterprises, but for the most part the land is owned in small 2.5 to 5 acres plots. Almost every house has coconut, banana, or papaya trees in the yard. Mango, mamee, and guava are also raised either for home use or limited market sale. There is commercial production of vegetables such as summer squash, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes, malanga, yucca, beans and sunflowers as well as limes and passion fruit, mangoes, bananas, papayas, mamee, and herbs with over half the land being used for some form of commercial agricultural activity.
Many homes have a mixture of livestock including chickens, Guinea hens, turkeys, peacocks, pigs, sheep, goats, cattle and horses. There are no large commercial livestock producers in the area, although farmers may sell the occasional meat goat or pig. I have counted four farms with emus. They seem to be an oddity rather than a commercial enterprise. There is one man raising bees, two people raising tropical fish and one man raising exotic snakes. There is one man raising monkeys. Several people raise tropical birds such as parrots. Horses are an important aspect of the culture for the people living in the study area. Many people have horses and horse boarding generates income for numerous small ranches. Paso fino horses are prized and there is one man raising thoroughbred race horses.
There are numerous plant nurseries, mainly producing landscape material for local sale. There are two commercial orchid growers and one commercial grower of carnivorous plants.
Many people do not live in the area all the time, but come out on weekends and holidays. Sometimes the properties are left unattended, but more often one member of the family or a hired hand will live on the property to take care of things during the week. Farms are considered "family farms" with the properties being used by large extended families for entertainment as well as fruit, vegetable, and meat production which is shared with the extended family. Many people state that they bought homes and property in the study area because they wanted to retire to a ranch in the country. Other people state that they moved to the area because they perceived it as being a safer environment for their children than other parts of the County.
To access the understanding of area residents I asked them four questions in open-ended interviews. The questions are:
1. What are the goals of the restoration?
2. Which agencies are involved in the restoration?
3. How are they going to achieve their goals?
4. How has your life been effected by the restoration?
Respondents where chosen from every fourth residence starting at the most western avenue, 218 Avenue, on the southern boundary street, 168 Street, and going north. At the northern end of the avenue I return to 168 Street and go up the next avenue. I worked my way east until I covered all the roads in the area. Avenues run north and south, while streets run east and west. All but one section of one avenue are unpaved and only two streets, 168 and 132 Street, are paved. Large sections of some of the unpaved avenues are passable only in large trucks or four wheel drive vehicles. Houses on side streets are counted in with the higher avenue number if they face south and with the lower number avenue if they face north. I decided that because there were so many homes along 136 Street, one of the two paved roads in the area, I would do that road last. I started at the western end, where the paving starts, and counted every fourth house as I did on the avenues.
In doing my interviews of area residents, I was surprised that they knew so little about what was happening. I was also surprised that people were so reluctant to speak with me. This became more noticeable as I moved east, toward the canal. Out of a possible one hundred and eight, I was only able to complete fifty nine interviews. All properties have fences and locked gates around them. I honk my car horn and wait. Many times no one will come out to the fence even though it appears that they are home. Some people stated that they only spoke Spanish, so I came back with an interrupter, but then they would not come out to the fence. People mistrust all aspects of the government. I imagine that some of the reluctance to speak with me also stems from fear of being deported if people are here illegally. There were properties that had tall hedges and wooden fences around them so I was unable to see if there were homes on the property. The following is a summary of the responses to the four questions I asked:
What are the goals of the restoration of the Everglades?
Thirty three out of fifty nine respondents stated they did not know what the goals of the restoration were. Most people seemed embarrassed that they didnt know more about it. Twelve respondents felt that the government wanted their land although no one felt that the acquisition of their homes or property was necessary to increase environmental quality. One man complained about homes to the west of the study area being taken away from private people and then being given to rangers from the Everglades National Park. Twelve respondents felt that the restoration was an excuse for the government to take private land. Open land in Dade County is disappearing quickly and land is raising in value. Its a general feeling in the area that the land will be sold to a big developer. Seven respondents felt the goals of the restoration was "to make it like it was before" although they could not say what that meant. Five respondents mentioned storing water as a goal.
The responses that would show some understanding of the goals of the restoration include:
Who is involved in the restoration?
The majority of households, thirty one, stated that they did not know. The most frequently mentioned agency was the South Florida Water Management District mentioned by twenty two respondents. Twelve respondents mentioned the Army Corps of Engineers and eight mentioned Everglades National Park. Eight respondents mentioned environmental groups, although no one could accurately name an environmental group, and seven felt that Dade County was involved.
Agencies involved include, but are not limited to:
What are these agencies doing to meet their goals?
No one mentioned the Modified Water Deliveries Project or the C-111 Project. Thirty respondents stated they did not know. Nine felt it was a "land scam and eight stated that to achieve their goals the area was being flooded. One person mentioned the need to build new water control structures and one stated that they would use existing structures to increase the water level in ENP. Five respondents said that to restore the Everglades water levels would be increased in the Park. Three respondents felt that it would not be possible for the Everglades to be restored.
The projects authorized to meet the goals of the restoration for the area south of the Tamiami Trail are the Modified Water Deliveries Project for Shark River Slough and the C-111 Project for Taylor Slough and Florida Bay. These projects have two main components: changes in the way current water control structures are operated and the building of new structures. The aim is to take more water from the Water Conservation Areas north of Tamiami Trail and put it into the Park in an effort to mimic the natural, rain-driven water flows. A series of computer models has been developed and used to attempt to reconstruct what could have been historic water levels. As no real data exists concerning hydroperiod or water levels this aspect of the project is only conjecture. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the data generated from the use of these computer models.
Other important aspects of the restoration include:
How has the restoration affected your life?
This question received the most comment of the four questions. I was surprised at the number of people who stated that they didnt feel that the restoration had effected their lives. Twenty one respondents felt their lives had not been affected, although two of these respondents stated that they had experienced increased flooding. They did not attributed this to the restoration. Eleven respondents stated that their lives had been effected a great deal. I received statements such as "Its been devastating", "Its been terribly disruptive" and "Were in limbo". When people responded to the question of flooding they displayed a big increase in emotion as opposed to the other questions. People are very angry about the increased flooding in the area. Already bad dirt roads are made impassable, live stock deaths and illnesses increased and many animals had to be sold. Income is lost on rental property, horse boarding and agricultural production. People also report an increase in illness events that they attribute to an increase in stress as a result of the uncertainty about the flooding and SFWMD efforts to buy out all or part of the area without legal condemnation procedures. Seven respondents reported losing a substantial number of plants due to flooding-either landscaping plants in their yards or fruit trees. One man reported losing all the plants in his sizable nursery. Eight respondents reported losing animals as a result of flooding. One man lost over two thousands chickens, others lost horses due to hoof problems brought on by the high water. Eight respondents reported an increase in stress and worry and several reported heath problems. Eleven respondents complained that because of the restoration effort and the SFWMD's interest in acquiring the area, they were unable to sell their property or build on it. The comments respondents made to this question were very telling:
There was a very distinct difference in the responses from the people in the western edge of the area to the people who lived on higher ground closer to the canal. Just six inches more above sea level makes a big difference in whether flooding is a problem. The land in the western part of the study area is somewhat lower than the land closer to the canal. Another factor in flooding is how close your land is the L-31N; the closer to the canal you are, the faster you land will drain off after it rains.
The condition of the roads has a lot to do with the amount of inconvenient people experience as a result of flooding. One respondent on 217 Ave. had a stoke during one of the times the water was two feet deep in the road. It took two days to get him out to a hospital. The largest fire truck in the County was used and the paramedics still had to carry him a quarter mile through the water on a stretcher. The farther west of L-31 N people lived, the more likely they were to feel impacted by flooding and the restoration in general.
Road issues are also a deciding factor in how people perceive their neighbors. Citizens on some avenues seemed able to get together and periodically pay to have the road graded. Over time, the height of the road bed increases and flooding is not so much of a problem. Respondents on other avenues seemed unable to summon either the money or the community spirit to keep the road in good repair. The roads in the western one third of the area are so low that they have been wet for most of the last four years. Most private citizens do not have the money to continue repairing these flooded roads. The citizens on 218 Ave. found a source of free fill for their road but were stopped from using it to repair the road by the Dade Count Dept. of Environmental Regulatory Management (DERM). The director of DERM stated that there was a "no fill" ordinance in place and any fill added to the road would have to be removed and all the people along the road would be fined !
Almost all the people who stated that they did not have a flooding problem noted that while their land was high, some of their neighbors with lower land did experience flooding.
I also noticed that the closer I got to the canal, the less people wanted to speak to me. Many of the properties appeared to be places where migrant Mexican farm laborers lived. One place I visited appeared to be a brothel. The people there really did not want to talk to me.
Also, the closer I got to the canal, the less people understood about the restoration. The people that are the most effected, the people with the worse roads, the most flooding, and with the SFWMD attempting to buy their land, were the group that had involved themselves in the issue the most. But even their understanding was pretty limited.
On the whole, the residents perception of the restoration can be summed up as "The government wants my house, but I dont know why." People are extremely suspicious of all aspects of the government. They are unable to distinguish between County, State or Federal agencies. They are angry over the way they have been treated. I received many comments stating that all people wanted was to be left alone. People also stated that although their homes were not much, they meant a great deal to the owners. One man said, "My house is my life" while another women said, "Were only little-the Park has so much land, why do they need ours?" No one wanted to use their property for investment purposes-no one wanted to be able to sell their land to a developer or to put in high-density, urban type developments. People seemed the genuinely love their homes and farms. I received many statements like, "It may not look like much, but we are happy here with our horses" and "I only want to live here on my farm with my family."
The next part of my ethnology concerns the view of the institutional players concerning the restoration. This has turned out to much more involved that I had ever anticipated. After reading a huge mass of literature from different agencies and talking informally and in formal interviews with some of the institutional players, I have decided that its understandable for area residents to have so little comprehension about the restoration. Many of issues that the restoration seeks to resolve are not yet out of the project design stage. Adding complexity to the issue is the fact that agencies appear to compete with each other rather than cooperate. Different agencies have differing agendas. The SFWMD has the best access to the local media and therefore is often able to put forth their version of how the restoration should be handled. I have not seen anything in the local media about the ACEs aspect of the restoration although they are in charge of building most of the new structures and formulating the operating criteria for the system. I will go into some of these issues in more depth later in this report.
THE EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM
In order for events in the study area to be understandable, I must offer some over-all explanation of the dynamics at work in the Everglades ecosystem as well as a very brief history of the disruption and channelization of historic sheet flow patterns. There are several books describing the ecosystem in detail so my explanation will be brief.
The Everglades is a nutrient poor, watershed ecosystem made up of a variety of habitat types and covering a large area. It is dependent on a rain-driven hydrologic regime that includes fluctuating water levels resulting in periods of inundation and dry-down (ACE, Moving Toward Ecosystem Restoration, 2/96, pg. 2). The Native-American term for the Everglades is Pah-Hay-okee, or "grassy-water. (Merritt, pg. 22)
The Everglades watershed begins with the head waters of the Kissimmee River around present day Orlando (See Fig. #5, Lodge, pg. 13). The Kissimmee, as well as Taylor Creek, and Fisheating Creek, flow south into Lake Okeechobee. The system covers an area of 10,890 square miles (Light and Dineen, 1994). As I stated, the watershed is a rain-driven system. This means that rainfall amount determines water levels, both above and below ground. The water stored underground comes from rain water that has percolated through the porous rock in which the aquifer is contained. When the water level in Lake Okeechobee reached 15 feet above sea level, water spilled over the rock rim around the lakes southern edge in a slow, steady sheet. This flow of water, or "sheet flow", moved south at speeds ranging from almost nothing to a top speed of about two feet per minute (Lodge, pg. 248). The slope of the land from the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee to the southwestern coast of Florida where Shark River Slough discharges into the Gulf of Mexico averages less than two inches per mile. As this flow of water traveled slowly south some was lost to evaporation and evapotranspiration and some was added by rainfall. The flow of water was channeled along the south-eastern coast of Florida by the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. Ridge is a rather grand term for it as it never exceeds a height of 20 feet (Lodge, pg.177). The slightly higher ground in the Big Cypress Swamp to the west also plays a part in directing the flow of water. The Everglades proper was drained by two sloughs, or depressions. Shark River Slough began a little bit south of Fort Lauderdale and carried water south and west to flow off the southwest coast of Florida, just behind Cape Sable. Taylor Slough is a smaller depression south and east of Shark River Slough that emptied into Florida Bay.
The Everglades ecosystem is considered nutrient poor meaning that nutrients are stored within the biomass of the system and not in the soil and water. At the same time, however, it was very productive. The original system supported large numbers of animals, especially wading birds. The ability to be so productive rests on the alternation between seasonal water depths. The yearly cycle started with the rainy season in June or July and continued until September or October. During this time as much as 1600 mm of rain can fall (MacVickers and Lin, 1984). The broad, flat expanse of water acted like a solar energy collector, with the energy being stored in the invertebrates, fish and plants. When the rainy season was over, the water on the lands surface began to decrease. As the dry season continued, and the water table fell below the surface of the ground, the sheet flow separated into unconnected pools and ponds in the lower areas. The difference in elevation may be only a matter of a few feet. The ground is pocked with solution holes, or areas of dissolved limestone, that may be two or three feet deep. As the water continued to dry up, inundated areas became smaller and smaller concentrating energy in these shrinking pools of water. At the end of the dry season, some of the only areas that still contained water were the holes kept open by alligators and the above mentioned solution holes. Alligators follow the animal life as it becomes concentrated into smaller and smaller areas by the shrinking water. The alligators movements help to keep the deeper pools from silting in. The decreasing pools of water concentrate fish and provide an easy feast for wading birds which congregated at these fertile margins. These areas were not static either in time or place, but constantly shifted toward lower and lower elevations as the water level receded. Storks especially, depend heavily on this concentration of food for success in raising their young. They time their nesting so the young chicks are growing just as food becomes easier to catch. When the rainy season began again the process was reversed. The animal life that had found refuge in the deepest pools or solution holes began to breed again as water levels rose, until these isolated pools were again connected and the fish and invertebrates dispersed (Kushlan et al., 1975; Frederick and Collopy, 1989).
The same process of concentrating food is carried out on land as well as in the water. As water levels rise, land animals are forced onto high ground. This concentration of rodents and reptiles onto shrinking areas of high ground provides easy hunting for predators, especially birds of prey (personal observation).
For this system to remain productive two conditions are necessary: water must remain in the lowest elevations during the dry season, and the system must cover a large area. Organic accumulations in the lowest elevations are oxidized by persistent drying, resulting in actual loss of peat as well as loss of productivity. This oxidation of peat is called subsidence. I have been told by several investigators that no one knows what the original elevation of Shark River Slough was, as so much peat has been lost to subsidence. The US Geological Survey states that Shark River Slough is one to two feet lower in elevation than the surrounding land (Merritt, pg. 22). It is estimated that 50% of the area once occupied by the original system has been lost to development. Without the large area and the long seasonal inundations, the system is unable to provide the necessary energy to maintain itself. (Holling, Gunderson, Walters, 1994)
As I mentioned above, the underlying rock is extremely porous. Water moves through this underling rock at a speed of approximately one foot per day (personal conversation with MacVickers). The Biscayne aquifer is 200 feet thick in some places and is considered to be one of the most productive aquifers in the county. At times it can be said that it is an aquifer above ground. The water within the rock aquifer is like an underground river of water, slowly flowing through the rock, moving as one single, integrated entity (Merritt, pg. 7-8)
Presently the ground water flows south and east. I have been asking if this was the case historically or if the canals draining the land and the municipal wells pumping drinking water draw the subsurface water in that direction. I have gotten conflicting answers from different people.
So, presently, ground water flows in one direction (south and east) and surface water or sheet-flow used to travel in the other direction (south and west). Water also travels through the layer of peat, but at a slower speed than through the rock aquifer. (MacVickers) So, water is flowing through three mediums: porous rock, peat, and air. It flows in different directions and at different speeds through these mediums.
The vegetation of the area south of Lake Okeechobee is shown in Figure 6. I have found that all information sources do not use exactly the same system for describing vegetative associations. I am using the one I found in Mr. Lodges book, Everglades Handbook because it is clear and concise. (Lodge, pg. 15)
Pond apple/ elderberry/ willow This large forest of pond apple and willow is gone now, replaced by farming. The forest flourished on the rich peat soils that were built up by the sediments in the lake water as it spilled over the shallow, southern lip of Lake Okeechobee.
Sawgrass marsh The dominate plant is sawgrass, but depending on ground elevation, other plants will flourish as well. The average length of inundation is ten months, but it can be almost continuous during a wet year. The deeper the water, the taller and more dense the sawgrass grows.
Slough/ Tree island/ Sawgrass Mosaic Sloughs are the lowest places in the Everglades. They are the main avenues of water flow within the system. They may be totally inundated for several years but the average hydroperiod is about 11 months, Water depth ranges from one to three feet. Dominate vegetation is similar to the sawgrass marsh-bladderwort, white water lily, floating heart, and spatterdock. Maidencane may be abundant but there is little sawgrass in the deepest waters of the slough.
Tree islands Tree islands form in open marsh areas. They are made up of either upland trees that need to be above the level of inundation or of species that thrive on wet conditions. Tree islands range in size from part of an acre to hundreds of acres. Their elongated, tear-drop shape is produced by the sheet flow slowly moving south and west along their edges.
Wetland Tree Islands- Three types: Bay Head, Willow head and Cypress head, each dominated by the named species. Other plants make up the understory
Peripheral Cypress Swamp Cypress trees prefer deeper water and longer hydroperiods so they occur in low areas.
Peripheral Wet Prairie Developed on peat soil with a long hydroperiod and low plant diversity. Important as a source of food for wading birds at the end of the dry season.
Marl prairies Marl prairies have a short hydroperiod. Water may not reach above the ground for more than thirty days a year, consequently there is little peat build up. The pinnacle rock is right at the surface. Species are mixed with some sawgrass, Muhly grass, and Sagittaria.
Hammocks The word "hammock" is thought to come from a Seminole word for home. They built their homes on these areas of higher ground which supported forests of tropical hardwood trees. The only tree that might sound familiar is the live oak. It is the only tree of temperate origin. All the rest of the major species are of tropical origin (Lodge, pg. 12-33)
Periphyton No discussion of the Everglades ecosystem would be complete without a discussion of periphyton. It is the most widely distributed plant community in the Florida Everglades. It consists of an assemblage of various microalgae that live on shallow, submerged substrates such as the stalks and leaves of vegetation. It appears as a thick mat or carpet covering submerged plants and bottom sediment. Taxonomic composition is determined by environmental conditions. This algal complex is important for several reasons. It converts light and CO2 into organic matter which is fed upon by many aquatic organisms, thus forming the basis for the food chain within the Everglades system. It also oxygenates the water column and forms a substantial part of the vegetative biomass of the Everglades. (Browder, et el, 1994) Its estimated that it can represent more than 50% of the dry vegetative biomass in Shark River Slough (Wood and Maynard, 1974).
Because periphyton can take phosphorus from the water, Dr. Ron Jones, Florida International University, is researching the use of periphyton as a way to filter phosphorus from the water flowing into the system (personal conversation, Dr.Jones).
The heart of the Everglades is an aquatic environment for most of the year. While there are mammals present they are outnumbered by birds and reptiles. The top predator is the Florida panther although a good case could be made for the alligator. There are deer, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, otters, and various species of mice and rats (Lodge, pg. 139-143).
There are about 350 species of birds within Everglades National Park. Sixty percent of these species are area visitors, either for the winter or for brief stop overs on their way to somewhere else. Bird numbers have been declining at alarming rates during this century. Plume hunters killed thousands of birds for their feathers at the beginning of the century. Disruption of historic water flow patters and loss of habitat to development have resulted in a significant reduction in numbers for many species. The Everglades National Park Expansion Act states that there has been a 90% reduction in bird numbers within the system as a result of the alteration of natural hydrologic conditions. There are three birds listed on the Endangered species list:
Much of the focus of the restoration effort is aimed at preserving and enhancing animal habitat, especially bird habitat. Because the Everglades ecosystem hosts such a large number of visiting species, habitat reduction here can result in loss of species elsewhere. Preserving environmental quality in the Everglades ecosystem is an important step in preserving bird species throughout the United States. Habitat is lost not just through development of the land, but also by the disruption of the historic sheet flow patterns.
Birds are considered to be the indicators of the biological health or illness of the natural system. If wading bird numbers increase, it can be assumed that the the restoration is succeeding. Conversely, a continuing decline in wading bird numbers is an indication that the restoration effort so far has not been successful. The numbers of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow have declined drastically. The bird now faces the very real possibility of extinction. I will go into more detail concerning the Cape Sable seaside sparrow later on in this paper.
Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem. As the dry season advances, the vegetation dries out while the ground stays damp. Lightening fires often swept across large areas. As long as the peat was still damp, the root system of the native vegetation was not damaged. In fact, many of the plants that live in the Everglades need fire to thrive. Fire burns off tangles of underbrush, kills opportunistic weeds, and results in fresh new growth. Native hunters often used fire to produce this new growth to attract deer. The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is dependent on fire to keep the landscape open and prevent the tangles of brush that deprive it of its favored habitat (letter from US Dept. of the Interior published in ACE 1/9/95). But when the water table dropped and the ground was allowed to dry out, the fires didnt just sweep through. The underlying peat burned and in some places many feet of peat were lost.
Mans Manipulation of the Ecosystem
Unlike many places in the world with a long history of human manipulation, human use of the Everglades ecosystem has a history of less than 200 years. In that short time we have managed to disrupt most of the ecosystem functioning. I would like to quote from a US Geological Survey paper with the title South Florida Wetlands Ecosystem: Biogeochemical Processes in Peat. :
"Serious problems facing this ecosystem include (1) phosphorus contamination producing nutrient enrichment, which is causing changes in the native vegetation, (2) methylmercury contamination of fish and other wildlife, which poses a potential threat to human health, (3) changes in the natural flow of water in the region, resulting in more frequent drying of wetlands, loss of organic soils, and a reduction in freshwater flow to Florida Bay, (4) hypersalinity, mass algal blooms, and seagrass loss in parts of Florida Bay, and (5) a decrease in wildlife populations, especially wading birds."
The most visible effect of mans manipulation of the ecosystem is the series of levees, dikes, canals and pumping stations that were built to provide flood protection. Flood control and land reclamation have always been important issues in southern Florida. Because of the seasonal rise in the water table, most areas were not suitable for human use without some form of flood protection. The Everglades ecosystem, on the other hand, evolved to make use of the seasonal fluctuations in water levels and when these fluctuations were stopped all parts of the ecosystem suffered.
In 1882 the Caloosahatchee River was connected to Lake Okeechobee. The Miami, North New River, the Hillsborough and the West Palm Beach canals quickly followed. The St. Lucie canal was begun in 1916 to provide a way to drain the lake into the Atlantic Ocean and the southern rim of the lake was diked to prevent flooding south of the lake. (Light and Deneen, 1994) This made large tracts of land available for human use, but the cost was higher than the original engineers had ever anticipated.
In 1948 Congress authorized the Central and Southern Florida Project (C&SF). The original purposes included: flood control, municipal water supply, prevention of salt water intrusion, navigation, recreation, water supply for Everglades National Park, and preservation of fish and wildlife habitat. The project covers about 16,000 square miles in 18 counties. There are over 1,000 miles of canals and levees, over 160 water control structures and 18 major pumping stations. The project was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and managed by their local sponsor the South Florida Flood Control District which evolved into the South Florida Water Management district (SFWMD) (ACE, Moving Toward Ecosystem Restoration, 1996, pg. 1).
In 1961 the L-29 canal and levee was built on the north side of the Tamiami Trail. This cut off the sheet flow into Shark River Slough. Without this slow moving, shallow river the level of the Biscayne Aquifer dropped significantly. The most immediate consequence of this was the intrusion of salt water into the coastal well system of the metropolitan areas, something that the original planers had warned against. Another consequence was the sharp decrease in all wildlife within the Everglades ecosystem, especially the population of wading birds (Douglas, pg.396).
It has been pointed out to me by numerous people that it will not be possible to "restore" the entire ecosystem. What is being attempted is the restoration of "critical functions" of the ecosystem in an attempt to provide a sustainable habitat for the native plants and animals as well as provide for aquifer recharge and the prevention of salt water intrusion into coastal wells.
The issue of restoring the original hydropatterns and hydroperiods to the area south of Lake Okeechobee is extremely complex. Many factors influence the behavior of water within the system with the high permeability of the underlying substrate being one of the biggest influencing factors. We tend to think of canals as either moving water from one place to another for the purposes of flood control and municipal water supply or as a means of ship transportation. Due to the extreme porosity of the ground in South Florida, the canals in the Central and South Florida Project also collect and distribute water via seepage ( Merritt, pg. 5). If, for example, the water level in a canal is at six feet above sea level and the ground water contained in the land surrounding the canal is at four feet above sea level, water will seep out of the canal and into the ground surrounding the canal. Or, if a reach of canal is pumped down, such that the water level in the canal is lower than the water level in the surrounding land, water will seep into the canal, lowering the water level in the land along that reach of canal. This seepage aspect of the canal system can either flood an area or provide a form of passive flood protection depending on the way the system is operated. As you can imagine, this seepage aspect of the canal system is sometimes harmful for the ENP. If canals along the edge of the Park are pumped down, water within the Park ecosystem will be lost to seepage. This fact has great importance for the study area as I will show.
Besides the impact from the disruption of traditional hydroperiods and hydropatterns, the ecosystem has also been negatively impacted by the introduction of invasive, non-native vegetation (Lodge, pg. 170, ACE, Moving Toward Ecosystem Restoration, 2/96, pg. 11-12) and contamination from agricultural chemicals (Lodge, pg. 180-181).
The three most invasive plants that have been introduced into the Everglades are:
The cost of removing these serious pests is enormous. They are relentless in their colonization of the ecosystem. They can grow so thick that native vegetation is smothered. While the restoration effort is addressing the problem of these invasive exotics, so far most efforts to eradicate them from within the Park boundaries has been unsuccessful (Miami Herald, 4/20/97, front page). Although these plants have invaded the study area and form solid thickets in some places, there is no effort made to rid the study area of them so I will not go into more detail here concerning this very real problem.
Water quality within the Everglades ecosystem has been affected by the human use of lands adjacent to the Everglades. Nutrient laden run off from agriculture, especially in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) results in a shift in vegetation from sawgrass, which evolved within the nutrient-poor system, to cattails which crowd out the sawgrass. Agriculture also contaminates the water with pesticides and herbicides (Waller, pg. 37; McPherson pg. 42-46). Mercury is also a problem, although no one is sure where the mercury came from. Mercury levels in fish in the WCAs are so high that there are signs posted along some canals warning people not to eat the fish.
The attempt to restore the natural functioning of the Everglades ecosystem is a massive effort involving many governmental agencies and said to cost billions of tax dollars. The involved area stretches the entire length of the system, from the head waters of the Kissimmee River to Florida Bay. There are many more projects involved in the effort than just the ones that I mention. I mention the Modified Water Deliveries Project (Mod. Water Deliveries, or sometimes just Mod. Waters) to Everglades National Park as this project has the most impact on the study area.
While the ACE is in charge of building water control structures and setting their operating standards, the finale decisions about what to do and how to do are arrived at by the many participating agencies. There are over twenty agencies, from the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice to the Department of Transportation all with varying degrees of bureaucratic interest in the restoration. The scientific complexity of the issues themselves, and the social complexity introduced by the numerous bureaucratic players makes all but a brief introduction of the subject beyond the scope of this paper. My original intention was to assess the knowledge impacted people had about the restoration effort and contrast that with what the restoration really was. As I have learned more and more about the restoration process, I find that the subject of just what the restoration is, is not so easy to pin down and describe. First I will discuss the methods I used to document the restoration process. I will then briefly describe the stated goals of the restoration and then focus on the Modified Water Delivery Project. I will then confine my discussion to two specific topics and their effect on the study area:
1. The Southern Everglades Restoration Alliance (SERA), a working group made of the five sponsoring agencies
2. The possible extinction of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)
As I have already stated, the attempt to restore the Everglades ecosystem is an extremely complex endeavor. It would be impossible for me to explain it fully in this paper, but I have tried to make myself familiar with the major issues. To do this I have read documents and articles published by the US Geological Survery, ACE, SFWMD, Everglades National Park, Dade County, and local newspapers as well as books published for the general public. I have talked with many of the involved institutional players, both informally and in formal interviews as well as in person, on the phone and via e-mail. As different agencies have different areas of interest and expertise, it wasnt possible for me to ask different people from different agencies the same questions and then compare their responses as I did with area residents. This variety of information has helped me to begin to gain some understanding of the complexity of the issues involved. The most informative thing I have done is to attend meetings of the Southern Everglades Restoration Alliance (SERA, pronounced like Sarah, the girls name). I will go into some detail about these meetings shortly. I have tried to put all this information together into as understandable a format as I can. I would like to mention that I have tried not to use anyones name in this report. It is not my intention to single out individuals in any way-my main intent is to document the process whereby decisions are made and then implemented.
Goals of the Restoration
The goals for the restoration of the Everglades are outlined in this summary from a AEA workshop dated April 1991:
1. Increase hydroperiod in eastern marshes, which currently have a 0 to 2 month hydroperiod, to a 3 to 7 month hydroperiod in the average year.
2. Increase water depth in late summer and fall along the freshwater marsh/mangrove interface from stair step area of Everglades National Park through Taylor Slough, C-111 basin)
3. Restore persistent depths through Shark River Slough during dry season in an average year.
4. Reduce depth in southern end of Water Conservation Area 3A, maintain hydroperiod and increase pool size.
5. Remove phosphorus upstream of Water Conservation Areas.
6. Spread regulatory spikes in space and time.
7. Allow water depths and flows to be coupled with natural interannual and seasonal variation.
8. Maintain mosaic of native tree island/sawgrass/slough communities.
9. Maintain hydrologic contiguity between peripheral marsh and deeper water areas.
10. In a general sense, do not attempt to restore the system to what it supposedly "was" where it "was", but attempt to restore critical functions and structures.
11. Restore trophic structure and functions in space and time in the freshwater/saltwater interface and in the areas that were dried out for extensive periods.
12. Make the urban areas and Everglades Agricultural Area more self-sufficient and less dependent on Everglades for supply of water and for flood control.
The restoration effort encompasses the entire area of the Everglades watershed system from the Kissimmee River south to the mangrove swamps and offshore reefs on the southern tip of the state and include many federal and local projects. I would like to concentrate on the area south of the Tamiami Trail. This area includes Shark River Slough (SRS), Northeast Shark River Slough (NESRS), the Rocky Glades, and Taylor Slough.
In 1984 the ACE initiated a operational study called the Experimental Program of Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park. The purpose of this experimental program was to gather data to enable the ACE to develop operating criteria for the Modified Water Deliveries to ENP (Mod Water Deliveries) and the C1-11 Project. The Mod Water Deliveries Program is attempting to restore, as much as possible, the original sheet-flow patterns to Shark River Slough. The C1-11 Project is attempting to restore more natural water flows to Taylor Slough. As these criteria are being formulated, a series of tests or iterations, are being carried out by the ACE and SFWMD. Currently, the ACE and SFWMD are up to Test Iteration 7 which was initiated on November 1995 (ACE, Moving Toward Ecosystem restoration, 2/96, pg. 2-3). The idea is to make changes in the way the canal system is operated and then gauge the reaction of certain features within the ecosystem to the change.
Modified Water Delivery Project
The purpose of this project is to modify the original Central and South Florida Project (C&SF) authorized by Congress in 1948 in order to restore more natural hydrologic conditions to Shark River Slough. As part of this project the Department of the Interior is slated to acquire 107,600 acres of land in the East Everglades for incorporation into Everglades National Park. Eight water control structures, two pump stations and a flood mitigation system to prevent adverse affects to existing residential development are supposed to be constructed as part of this project. It projected cost of this project is $101.1 million and it is scheduled to be complete in November 2003 (ACE, Moving Toward Ecosystem Restoration, 2/96, pg. 13).
Currently there are four structures called S-12 structures-S-12a, b,c and d, that are supposed to supply Everglades National Park with water. There is also a canal, L-67 Ext. which deliveries water directly into Shark River Slough. Another structure, S-333, also releases water into L-67 Ext. These structures deliver water only to the western portion of Shark River Slough. Water is prevented from spreading out toward the east by the levee along side L-67 Ext. Structure 355 is being built and is slated to be finished in several years. This structure will deliver water into the northeast section of Shark River Slough. At that time, the ACE plans to fill in L-67 Extension canal with the fill stored in the levee. It is hoped that S-355 a and b, plus the S-12 structures will allow water to flow into Shark River Slough and spread out in some semblance of sheet flow (personal conversation with S. Bullock, hydrologist for ACE).
As it is not possible to restore sheetflow over the entire area that it originally covered, a decision was made to attempt to restore the "critical functions" of the system in a smaller space. Computer modeling has been used to model fluid flows throughout the system both to estimate historic water flow patterns and to attempt to predict the outcome of different manipulations of the system. The model in use presently by the ACE and SFWMD is the Natural Systems Model (NSM36) This computer model is used to model surface water flows in the Everglades National Park and the Water Conservation Areas (Fennema, et. el. 1994).
I have recently learned that other agencies have their own computer models that they use to model the effects of flow changes within the system. The US Geological Survey has a computer model developed by M. Merritt that appears to be very accurate at modeling length and depth of inundation for the area south of Tamiami Trail. It is not used other agencies. I believe that there is another computer model being used by Everglades Nation Park. I have no way to evaluate the accuracy of any of these programs. I mention the issue to show how little integration there is between the different efforts of the various agencies.
Improving water quality is one of the major goals of the restoration. Phosphorus laden runoff from the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee has been singled out as a major villain in the degradation of the ecosystem. In Oct. 1988, Dexter Lehtien, then U. S. Attorney for Dade County, (Mr. Lehtien is currently in private practice and represents the Miccosukee Indians) filed suit against the Sate of Florida for not meeting water quality standards for the water entering Everglades National Park. The State lost the legal battle and in 1991 agreed to reduce the level of phosphorus flowing into the Park by 80% by the year 1997 (Miami Herald, Tropic, 4/28/96). In 1994 the state of Florida passed the Everglades Forever Act. This legislation requires the state to reduce phosphorus levels to 50 parts per billion (ppb) by July 1997, and to 10 ppb by 2006 unless research indicated that a higher figure was acceptable. As a result of this bill, a researcher was hired by SFWMD to determine what level of phosphorus was needed to precipitate vegetational changes in the ecosystem. This researcher felt that his research showed that phosphorus levels higher than 10 ppb would result in a reduction in sawgrass and a detrimental increase in cattails. The SFWMD maintains, however, that this figure is much to low. The SFWMD feels the answer is closer to 50 ppb. SFWMD refused to pay this researcher, so he took them to court and won a judgment against the SFWMD. I have been told that an audit of this researcher was done by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and his research was questioned. I am currently trying to get a copy of this audit. This researcher tells me that he is suing DEP over the issue.
It is interesting to note that the estimated cost of the storm water treatment areas or buffer zones that the SFWMD wants to build is $694 million. As part of the settlement the sugar industry is expected to pay $320 million toward the cost of cleaning up the water with some additional $796 million coming from state, federal sources, including tax money collected by the SFWMD. The sugar industry states that it has, on its own initiative and with its own money, drastically reduced the amount of phosphorus in runoff from the cane fields (Palm Beach Post, 10/27/97 and the Miami Herald 4/48/96).
I have been told by people in the environmental community that the SFWMDs plan to build treatment marshes will not reduce the phosphorus levels below about 50 ppb. I have no way to know what is truly the correct answer. I have been told that phosphorus levels within Everglades National Park are currently less than 11 ppb. Data from 3 water monitoring sites along the eastern boundary of ENP shows phosphorus levels as being higher than 11 ppb for two months between 1993 and 1996. (Ambient Ground and Surface Water Data 1993-1996, Dept. of Environmental Regulatory Management, 1997)
Data From SFWMD shows the phosphorus levels in runoff from the agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee ranges from 200 ppb in a few areas to under 50 ppb. in other areas. The percent reduction in phosphorus levels has steadily increased since 1987. Currently phosphorus levels have been reduced by over 50% in this area (SFWMD, Everglades Best Management Practice Program, 9/11/97, pg. 37-41).
I mention this fight over what level of phosphorus is acceptable in the ecosystem to highlight one of the major stumbling blocks to the restoration effort. Because no one has data about what levels of phosphorus were present in the ecosystem before mans intervention, agencies have some leeway in deciding what data is "legitimate" and what is not. If a state agency stands to receive a vast amount of money to provide water with a phosphorus level of 50 ppb, they have a vested interest in seeing that research supports the amount of 50 ppb as acceptable. Environmental interests maintain that the number is 10 ppb. I have no way of knowing who is right in this issue, I mention it to demonstrate just one of the many areas of contention and hostility between the different participating parties involved in the restoration effort.
It has taken me a lot of time to find out the actual levels of phosphorus in different parts of the ecosystem. There doesnt seem to be any listing of the actual values in an easily accessible public source, such as the TV news or local newspapers or a public library. The information is available for different places within the ecosystem from different sources. Researchers from DERM, USGS, SFWMD and ENP collect water quality data and publish reports for their agencies.
There is a great deal of duplication of data collection. Water quality monitoring is done by all of the above agencies. Hydrologic monitoring of water depths and lengths of inundation is collected at different monitoring stations, by ACE, SFWMD, and the USGS, with the results published in different reports distributed by these different agencies. Biological data about the different animal species is collected by the Fish and Wildlife Service and Everglades National Park. The work for these different data collection efforts is funded by numerous different funding sources.
This duplication of effort results in a great deal of wasted time and resources. Since there is currently no central data collection and distribution network in place between agencies, this fractured presentation of important data elements may result in slowing restoration progress.
In the manmade bureaucratic environment data seems to function like a resource. Access to this resource is a hotly contested issue. Data does not yet flow freely between agencies. Agency personnel are not always aware of the research efforts of their colleges in other agencies. Not all social groups being impacted by the restoration have access to data. Money and power can determine access to important information and the residents in the study area, for the most part, have neither. The agribusiness groups, both in south Dade County and the sugar growers south of Lake Okeechobee have the money to hire researchers to collect information and provide computer modeling on their behalf. The University of Florida prepared a report critical of the effects of the hydrological effects of the actions of the ACE and the SFWMD on agribusiness efforts in south Dade County. The US Dept. of Agriculture has also hired a hydrologist to perform computer modeling on the effects of the raising of the ground water in the Park for the farming interests in south Dade County. This hydrologist refused a request to provide hydrologic information concerning the study area because he stated that, "You will use the data." I expect the Anglo, agribusiness interests he is supplying data for will "use" the data he supplies them with. Currently there is no one providing any information to anyone in the study area. The area has no hydrologist or consultant from any area of government-either Federal, State or County, representing the interests of residents. Residents are at the mercy of the bureaucratic system. They have no recourse for any damages done to them or their businesses as a result of any actions of any of the institutional players involved in the restoration effort.
The legal system is of no use to residents either. Lawyers do not represent you just because you need them to. I had a lawyer tell me he would talk with me if I opened an escrow account in his name and deposited $100,000. Property rights groups will not represent the area citing "extensive pretrial preparation." There is a class action lawsuit started by area residents in 1982 over the zoning changes and the flooding. (Bench vs. Dade County, et. al.) This case has yet to be resolved. Lawyers do not want to fight the SFWMD. The District has unlimited legal and financial resources and all the time in the world. Lawyers want to win and get paid.
All of the elected officials whose job it is to represent the interests of residents refuse to become involved in what is perceived as an unpopular issue. To be seen as helping area residents is to be seen as being "against the environment"-the kiss of death to politicians.
Southern Everglades Restoration Alliance (SERA)
The restoration of the Everglades is a huge effort, involving people and resources from numerous governmental agencies. Getting agency personnel to cooperate with each other has been mentioned by numerous people as being the most difficult part of the restoration effort. The situation has not changed very much since the following was printed in August, 1970;
"While those involved with the Everglades are preoccupied in endless controversy, hurling accusations back and forth, questioning the reliability of information and the integrity of action, the Everglades ecosystem as we know it is literally going down the drain." (Cornwell, et all, pg. 35)
In 1996 a group was formed by the five "sponsoring agencies" involved in the restoration. These agencies are: Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Everglades National Park )ENP), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These agencies have the authority and the funding to direct the restoration effort.
Representatives from at least twenty other governmental agencies and private citizen groups attend SERA meetings as well. They include: the Miccosukee Tribe; the Dade County Farm Bureau; U.S. Geological Survey; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Everglades Restoration Oversight Group (EROG), a group made up of representatives from the south Dade County farming community; the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM), a Dade County agency; the Justice Department, as well as various conservation groups such as the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy.
SERA has no authority to make or enforce any project decisions. Its purpose is to serve as a facilitator between the different participating agencies in order to coordinate inter-agency decisions. Each agency retains the authority to govern its own actions.
Participants are divided up into "teams." There is a management team which coordinates SERA efforts. There are project implementation teams which act to coordinate the interagency actions required for the implementation of each agencys respective project components. These teams include a conveyance team, a buffer team, a lower C1-11 team and an experimental program team. Participants are further divided into functional teams which also make recommendations to the management team. They include a team for land acquisition, water quality issues, a hydrology team and a natural systems team. People are assigned to a team based on their field of expertise, not their agency affiliation. This means that each working group is made up of people from different agencies.
There is as yet no formal plans to reach the stated objectives of the restoration of more historically accurate water flows to Shark River Slough or Taylor Slough. SERA was formed to facilitate the decision making process in order to achieve the stated objectives of the restoration.
There are different options being evaluated to produce these desired objectives. The planning process used to decide which plan to implement consists of four steps:
1. Clarify, and document the performance measures that will be used to evaluate the different options being presented to meet the different project goals,
2. Identify, develop, and document the different alternatives,
3. Evaluate information for each alternative, including the data collected and the results of hydrologic modeling,
4. Choose options that best satisfy the objectives of the project and release the information for public comment.
I am told that the choice between different options is based on which one will satisfy the most project criteria for the least amount of money. As one person told me "We will approve the plan that shuts up the most people for the least amount of money."
In the words of the director of SERA, the goals of the group are "to take opinions out of the decision making process" as well as "integrate interagency activities" to enhance interagency cooperation.
This has been extremely difficult according to the director of SERA. As an example he sites the formulation and adoption of the operating criteria for Test Iteration 6 as being an extremely difficult task. People from different agencies that had worked together for years on a friendly basis and in a professional manner became hostile after going over the same issues, in meeting after meeting for most of a year without anyone changing their views. He stated that, "frustration turned to anger and it really hurt relationships." He would like to," keep discussions centered on the facts, and to keep emotion out of it."
One thing that the director would like to see come out of SERA is a comprehensive "natural systems model." This would consist of a computer data base that would contain all the elements found in the natural world, put together into a comprehensive and integrated whole. This data base would be able to correctly model all the effects of any change in the way the environment is manipulated. So, for example, if the water "schedule" through a certain water control structure is altered, the effects of this alteration could be predicted using a computer to model the dynamics and effects, not only the hydrologic effects, but the anticipated effects on wildlife, agriculture, and human communities. In order to produce such a detailed and complex computer model, large amounts of information must be collected and converted to a form that is usable within the confines of a computer program.
There are numerous meetings of the different teams taking place throughout the month. These meetings take place at different locations around south Florida. So far, I have not attended any of these meetings. To date, I have attended five SERA sponsors meetings since the beginning of January, 1998.
The meetings of the five sponsoring agencies are usually held once a month. They start in the morning, usually at 9:30 AM. They are held at a variety of places: the SFWMD headquarters in Palm Beach, a resort hotel in the Keys, a bank in Homestead, Florida, and the Agricultural Extension Agency in Homestead. Participants are usually cordial with each other. The dress is casual with many people wearing tan, docker-type slacks, cotton sport shirts and deck shoes. Men sometimes wear casual sport coats. Women wear either business-type suits or work-type slacks and cotton shirts. Colors for men and women both are generally neutral. Make-up is kept to a minimum with many women not wearing any make-up at all. Shoes are low heeled and functional. Hair is casual. I havent seen any men with ponytails. A few men have neatly trimmed beards. The director of the ACE and the ENP often, but not always, wear a uniform from their agency.
There are more men than women. Roughly one third of the participants are female, but many traditionally male positions are held by women. There are female hydrologists, lawyers, and researchers. Some ACE projects have a female director. There are no African-American representatives and so far I have not seen an African-American attend a SERA meeting in any capacity. There are a fair number of Hispanics and several people of Asian descent. I am not aware of any discrimination based on sex or nationality. The average age appears to be late thirty's to early fifty's, but this is just an estimate.
Seating is arranged so that the "big players" are sitting around an oblong made by placing tables around the center of the room to form a rectangle. This enables everyone to be able to see everyone else. Other participants sit in chairs arranged around the walls. The "big players" consist of the representatives from the five sponsoring agencies as well as the USGS, Florida Fish and Game Commission, EPA, and others. The three most influential people are the directors of the ACE, SFWMD, and ENP. Although the Miccosukees have several paid representatives, including a lawyer, a retired colonel from the ACE, and a water manager, there was no one representing the study until I became the community representative.
Agency representatives often make presentations using an overhead projector, or a laptop computer which can have its screen projected unto a large wall screen for viewing. There is an agenda of topics for each meeting, with copies passed around for everyone. People making presentations often have data fact sheets to pass out as well.
Meetings generally run over time with the agenda sometimes breaking down toward the end of the meeting. As I mention in the next section, procedural issues take precedence over any other topic. The topics of discussion break down roughly into:
procedural issues-50%, discussion of real data-25% and discussion of funding issues- 25%. This is an informal measurement. Procedural issues include: who has authority, funding or responsibility to perform a certain task, what documents need to be produced as a result of an action or non-action, discussion of whether actions are in compliance with NEPA (pronounced neepah), the National Environmental Policy Act, and which agencies must be notified concerning actions taken or not taken. These procedural discussions can become very convoluted. Some participants are more involved with issues of bureaucratic compliance, with some participants confining their discussions almost totally to these procedural issues. Others confine themselves to discussions about data-its validity and importance, the way it was gathered or generated, who assisted with the data gathering, or how the data will be collected into documents.
Besides the "formal meetings" that I have just described, there is also an "informal" aspect to these gatherings. Participants are constantly being beeped or called on their cell phones. People leave the room to make or return calls on their cell phones. A few people bring laptop computers with them, occasionally generating documents that are then passed out at the meeting. People leave the room in the company of other people to talk over some aspect of the discussion in private or in more detail. People get up and walk around and talk to other participants. These comings and goings increase in frequency as the meetings go on. I have the feeling that many of the important decisions are made between participants as a result of these personal, informal interactions.
Up until this time, I have never attended any bureaucratic meetings. I had not thought about going to a meeting as hard work. But, by the end of the day, after eight or nine hours of meetings, you really are exhausted! Some participants jobs consist almost totally of attending meetings of one kind or another. It becomes difficult to concentrate on the topics of conversation. In fact, some discussions loose their train of thought and just peter out altogether. Sometimes there will be a series of meetings of different multi-agency groups on consecutive days. These meeting marathons can go on for three or four days.
One thing that strikes a private citizen attending these meetings is the large number of acronyms. These acronyms are spoken as well as appearing in written materials. My two favorites are PSTA, pronounced "pasta" for periphyton storm water treatment area, and FONSI, pronounced like the name of the character from the TV show "Happy Days", fonz-ee, for a finding of no significant impact. I have included a short glossary at the end of this paper to help readers.
In discussing some of the aspects of the restoration process that I have observed, I would like to focus on one issue, the possible extinction of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. The restoration process is so complex and involves so many agencies that I could easily get lost in mountains of data and never be able to present anything meaningful to anyone. By focusing on the issue of the possible extinction of the sparrow, I hope to be able to high light some of the dynamics driving the restoration process and the way these dynamics are impacting the lives of private people.
Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis)
The first SERA meeting that I attended was an emergency meeting in Palm Beach at the headquarters of the SFWMD on January 6, 1998. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what emergency actions could be taken to lower the water levels in western Shark River Slough in an effort to provide the Cape Sable seaside sparrow with dry conditions during its March to June nesting season.
The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is a subspecies of the widespread seaside sparrow. It was first identified on February 18, 1918 by Arthur Howell on Cape Sable. The hurricane of September 2, 1935 was thought to have resulted in the extinction of the sparrow but it was sighted in Collier County, Florida in 1944 (Stimson, 1944).
The Cape Sable seaside sparrow is a small, shy, olive-green bird. Its favored habitat consists of short-hydroperiod marl prairies with little or no brush. It does not migrate. It feeds on spiders and insects and builds its nests close to the ground in tussocks of grass (Lodge pg. 162; Mayer and Pimm, pg. 13-14). If water is 10 cm deep on the lands surface during its March to June nesting season, the sparrow experiences a sharp decrease in nesting success (Mayers and Pimm, pg. 18).
The sparrow has been on the endangered species list since 1967 (Miami Herald, 12/22/97). Due to high water during its nesting season for several years in a row, there have been concerns that if the sparrow does not have a successful nesting season this year, it may very well become extinct (Pimm, pg.2).
A front-page article published in the Miami Herald on Dec. 22, 1997 described the situations this way:
"Facing a choice between washing an endangered bird out of Everglades National Park or flooding privately owned wetlands at the parks edges, officials managing South Floridas water made a tough call. Bye-bye, Cape sable seaside sparrow."
Further on in the article it states:
"Water managers this week will open flood gates that will send millions of gallons of water through a key breeding area of the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Meanwhile, another of the sparrows key habitats remains dangerously dry as officials protect houses in what is know as the 8 1/2 Square Mile Area." (See Fig.7)
Water has been held in the system of canals and water conservation areas until it is so high that something must be done with it immediately. An extremely wet dry season has compounded the problem. The problem for water managers is "Where to put the water?"
Sparrow numbers are dangerously low. Currently there are thought to be six breeding sub-populations-two constantly occupied core populations west and east of Shark River Slough, and four peripheral areas scattered about on the short-hydroperiod marl prairies, that are occupied intermittently. Between the years of 1992 and 1995, sparrow population numbers have decreased overall by 58%. There was a small percent increase of 9% in overall numbers from 1995 to 1996 (Curnutt, et. al. pg. 2), but the main core breeding population that occupies the area west of Shark River Slough has suffered a decrease of 91% between the years of 1992 and 1993. (Curnutt, et. al. pg. 5). If the species does not have a good nesting season this year, it may very well become extinct.
The sparrow habitat west of Shark River Slough has been experiencing high water during its nesting seasons as a result of alterations is the water delivery schedules to Everglades National Park. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 greatly reduced sparrow numbers as well. As a result of these two factors, this sub population has been drastically reduced in numbers. In 1981, Bass and Kushlan found that this sub population consisted of 2688 individuals. Currently the population is estimated at 200 (Curnutt, et. al. pg. 14-15).
The emergency measures taken by the ACE and the SFWMD are an attempt to remove water from the Water Conservation Areas without putting it on the marl prairies west of Shark River Slough. They include:
1. Close structures S-12 A and B
2. Open gated structure S-333 to allow water to flow into L-29 canal and hence into L-67 Ext. or east to L-31 N and then south
3. Leave structures S-12 C and D partially open
4. Open culverts in L-67 Ext. to increase flows south into the Park
5. Sandbag the culverts in the tram road at Shark Valley to prevent water spreading west toward the western sparrow habitat.
6. Reduce inflows of water into WCA 1, 2A and 3A
7. Create a new outlet from WCA 3A into WCA 3B so water will move into WCA 3B for storage. This gap will be closed when water in WCA 3B reaches 9 feet above sea level. Culvert structure G-69, which empties into the Tamiami Canal, is the only outlet for water to leave WCA 3B. Water can escape its impoundment also by evapotranspiration and by seeping under and through the impounding levees. Seepage water flows south to tide via the L-30, L-31N and C-111 canals. (ACE Environmental Assessment, 1/28/98, paragraph 2.01-2.11)
The Herald article states that more water cannot be put into Northeast Shark River Slough because it would flood the residential area. However, an ACE hydrologist tells me that currently there is no way to move more water into Northeast Shark River Slough. Two structures are being built to do this, S-355 A and B, but they are not currently operational. Other than the S-12s and L-67 Ext., the only other way for water to leave L-29 is via seepage from the canal that flows into culverts under the Tamiami Trail.
Water is supposed to move out of WCA 3A and into ENP via the S-12 structures. Water levels in WCA 3A over 10.75 feet above sea level would normally trigger the opening of all S-12s as wide as they could go (gate out of water). The Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the ACE at the request of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), noted :
" The FWS has declared that any opening of the S-12s greater than present would lead to failure of sparrow nesting and extinction. The inflexibility of that position precludes the Corps from taking action to protect habitat in the WCAs. However, at a point, because of the unacceptable risk of catastrophic failure of the structures and the associated potential loss of human life, the structures will have to be opened." (Environmental Assessment, 1/23/98, paragraph 2.07)
What this says is that at some point the water will become so high that the structures will fall. The top of the gates on the S-12 structures are at 11 feet above sea level when closed, so water higher than that would spill over the gates. It also says that because the sparrow is in immediate danger of extinction, the damage done by high water in the WCAs; the dead deer, the dying hardwoods and tree islands, would have to occur because these species were not in immediate danger of becoming extinct.
In a 1980 publication by the US Geological Survey, the effect L-67 Ext. has on water levels in ENP is noted. Figure 54 shows flows from L-67 Ext. on April, 24, 1979 and Figure 55, for April 26, 1979 after an extremely heavy rain. These maps show the way a large volume of water spreads out into the area of the western sparrow habitat. The larger the volume of water, the more it spreads out when it reaches the end of the canal (Schneider and Waller, pg. 65, 66). This report also notes that water released from the S-12 structures is conveyed into the Park via L-67 Ext. (Schneider and Waller, pg. 57).
In the past, I received the operating schedules for the canal system south of the Tamiami trail. All the canals and structures were listed except L-67 Ext. I made a phone call to the ACE person in charge of the project area that contained this canal and asked for the operating criteria for L-67 Ext. This person told me they didnt know which canal I meant-they couldnt find it on their map. It took several more calls to convince this person to say anything about this canal. Finally I was told it was "an old, degraded canal, without very much water in it." I had seen this canal with my own eyes and noted that there was a very large amount of water rushing south in it. I told this to the ACE person who then set up an appointment for me to view the canal along with personnel from ACE, ENP and SFWMD.
It took almost a year to find out water flows for this canal. Several months ago, one area resident called the ACE to find out how much water was flowing out the end of L-67 Ext. He ended up having to call the ACE headquarters in the Pentagon to get the information released from the local Corps office. He was told over the phone that 600 million gallons of water a day flowed out the end of L-67 Ext. In a recent conversation I had with a Corps hydrologist, I was told that the current volume of water flowing out L-67 Ext. was 400 acre feet a day. That works out to 130,400,000 gallons a day (400 acre feet x 326,000 gallons per acre foot). This volume of water flows steadily out the end of this canal onto flat ground, day after day, just six miles from the study area.
A report published by Everglades National Park in February 1982, notes that stop logs placed at two places in L-67 Ext. to force the water to simulate sheet flow were failures. It states that these structures are "of limited utility since a well-scoured channel, apparently formed after construction of the canal, regularly conducts considerable amounts of water around the dam and back into the canal directly south of this structure" (Wagner and Rosendahl, pg. 30).
Much of the discussion at this particular SERA meeting centered on procedural issues. There was concern that all actions must be in strict compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) had to be notified of what emergency actions needed to be taken. Environmental Impact Statements, EIS, had to be written concerning the other impacts to the environment the proposed emergency actions would have. An Environmental Assessment (EA) had to be written. These documents are called "products".
One problem that this rationalized, bureaucratic system is having is the attempt to formulate "trigger points" or "performance levels". These are events that would signal when a change in operating criteria was necessary. As an example, when water behind a levee gets too high, it would automatically trigger the opening of structures to allow water to escape and/or the closing of other structures to prevent the inflow of more water. Concerning the issue of the sparrow, one SFWMD employee stated "We need performance levels for the sparrow, so that if this happens again, we will be able to respond promptly." There was some discussion about what those performance levels should be. How do you fit a complex set of natural occurrences into a framework that allows the issue to be rationalized? What aspects of the life of a sparrow can serve as indicators of the overall health of that species? A certain percent decrease in nesting success rates was suggested as a "performance level." How was nesting success rate for this little bird, who lives in an area without roads, decided? What percent decrease in nesting success would signal a potential problem and what percent decrease was a normal fluctuation? Another big issue is which agency gets to be the one to make the decision and set new operational criteria. Will the FWS or ENP be allowed to make decisions that alter the way that the ACE or SFWMD operate the canal system?
One issue that came up at this meeting and others I have attended since is the importance in adhering to the "operating procedures." Any deviation from the agreed upon operating standards has to be documented in numerous ways. Its an involved, bureaucratic process to request permission to deviate from normal operating procedures. I am not sure of the all the steps involved or all the agencies that need to be contacted nor the number of documents generated as a result.
These situations point up the importance that SERA members give to procedural requirements. Discussions about them take up a majority of the time at SERA meetings. Who has the authority, responsibility, or funding to do something is often debated. The discussion to sandbag the culverts in the tram road at Shark Valley generated concerns about which agency should supply the workers to do the actual sandbagging. Was a permit needed from the DEP? If so, which agency had the responsibility for applying for this permit? Was a separate EA needed for the sandbagging? Could they just go ahead and do the sandbagging and get the permit after the fact? Could this action be included in some other document?
Toward the end of this meeting, I asked the Park ornithologist why dryness was a problem for the breeding population of sparrows east of Shark River Slough. He replied that this excessive dryness caused an increase in arson fires during sparrow nesting season which lowered their reproductive success rate.
So, I went to the Beard Research Center in Everglades National Park to look at the fire reports filed by Park fire personnel for each fire. I looked through the months of March, April and May from 1991 to 1997. There were many small fires in the study area. These fires mostly consisted of people burning brush or the illegal rubbish dumped on their property. Most fires were small, but one (fire number 9648) escaped and burned 867 acres. However, to my knowledge, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow doesnt live in the study area. There were also fires along 237 Avenue, the road that runs north and south in front of Chekika Park. There were also some small fires along a series of dirt roads that run west behind the Homestead Airport, as well as the main road within Everglades National Park. According to Park fire personnel, the fires along 237 Avenue and the dirt roads were mostly stolen cars, stripped and then torched by the thieves, while some of the fires along the main Park road were deliberately set.
There were some "prescribed burns" carried out by Park fire personnel along Pine Island Road and some of the more heavily used public places in ENP during sparrow nesting season. Prescribed burns took place on 5/23/95 (fire number 9522), 5/31/95 (fire number 9523), 4/26/96 (fire number 9640) and on 5/02/97 (fire number 9733). I am not sure if these fires impact sparrow breeding success since they were in areas heavily used by the public. However, on April 4, 1995, a helicopter engaged in "park related research" accidentally started a fire that wasnt put out until May 8 (fire number 9513). This fire burned 5,948 acres west of Taylor Slough apparently in sparrow habitat. This fire has not been mentioned anywhere else. There were no reports of any large arson fires damaging sparrow habitat during the months of March, April and May.
I dont know why the information presented to the public via the Miami Herald or at the SERA meeting differed from the data I collected at the Park research center, but it certainly casts the study area in a bad light. The information given to the public via the newspaper and public meetings, makes it appear that the entire crisis could have been averted is only the 8.5 square mile area wasnt there.
A public meeting was held in Homestead, Florida on February 3, 1998 to appraise the public of the emergency measures taken on the sparrows behalf. People from as far north as Big Cypress Preserve spoke about the effects of so many years of high water on the natural system. The hardwood hammocks and the tree islands are dead or dying. The willow heads where water birds nest are dead or dying. One man who said he had lived in the Big Cypress Preserve for thirty years, said the water had never been this high for this long before. He told how he had seen a yearling fawn climb up into a cypress tree to get out of the water. This man said most of the pregnant deer in Big Cypress had aborted because they had nowhere to lay down and have their fawns. Ninety percent of the deer in the Water Conservation Areas are said to have died as a result of the constant high water.
It appears that water has been held in the WCAs until it is so high that the integrity of the structures is in question. Due to the extreme porosity of the underlying substrate, the aquifer is saturated. Record amounts of rain falling on this saturated aquifer raises the level of water above the surface of the ground in places that normally do not experience dry season inundation. The system is flooded all the way to Big Cypress. The ways that water can be conveyed from L-29 and the WCAs to relieve the situation are limited. It is unclear to me why water wasnt run out to tide further north in the canal system. There are several places water could be released before it reached L-29 and the WCAs. From conversations with Corps people, I get the impression that water has been stored in the system for municipal use. I dont know whether this much water storage is necessary.
It is interesting that the following facts have not been publicly mentioned:
1. There is currently no way to move large volumes of water from the WCAs into North East Shark river Slough
2. The effect of water discharges, via L-67 Ext., on sparrow habitat have been will known since the early 1980s, but the canal has not been degraded because it is the only way to move water into the Park.
3. Arson fires do not appear to have not been a problem for the eastern breeding population during nesting season from 1991 to 1997 and, in fact, the only fire of note in sparrow nesting territory, during nesting season, was accidentally started by the Park helicopter flying researchers around.
Ethnographic documentation of the restoration of the Everglades has proven to be a very complex task. There are so many aspects of the situation that need to be explored that I can only touch on a few of them here. For example, the political aspect of the restoration effort is a critical component of the situation that I have not researched at all. Let me also say that I am not yet finished with this project. The restoration is still developing and the situation in the study area is not resolved. As I gain a greater understanding of the situation, or events take a different turn, I may alter the way I analyze the situation. At this time I would like to discuss some of the dynamics that I have observed operating in the restoration effort.
Natural systems form an integrated whole-an impact to one part of the system is felt throughout the entire system. When I say natural system, I mean not only the plants and animals that live in their natural setting, but also people. Human society is firmly placed within the boundaries of the natural world. We cant divorce ourselves from the effects our social actions precipitate in the physical world. By the same token, we have to face the fact that manmade changes or impacts to our physical environment carry a social price tag as well.
The social apparatus that has been formed to restore the Everglades ecosystem is focusing its attention on ways to manipulate the physical world. The social effects, the way peoples lives will be impacted by the decisions made, are not taken into account. This separation of the social effects from the physical effects is problematic. The social implications of these bureaucratic decisions are not discussed although they will heavily impact the lives of thousands of people.
Private people and small communities have no way to effectively communicate with large bureaucratic systems, whether the systems are political or corporate. Communities with money and social cohesion can gain access to the decision making process. But communities that are small or poor, or communities that are fractured along ethnic or economic lines, will not be able to muster the necessary resources to interact with a large, well-funded bureaucracy. This inability to interact in a meaningful way with the involved agencies plus the unwillingness of the impacting agencies to take the social implications of their actions into account leaves these communities at the mercy of a bureaucratic system they can neither comprehend nor control.
How should I interrupt the information that Ive been gathering? The situation concerning the study area is very complex. It has gone on for thirty years and involves all levels of government. The restoration effort itself is also complex, involving many governmental agencies, each with their own agenda and bureaucratic personality. Marxian conflict theory could prove to be useful in analyzing aspects of the collision of these two social groups-massive governmental bureaucracies on the one hand and a small community of farmers and ranchers on the other. Two aspects of the situation especially lend themselves to Marxian analysis.
One is the way that government agencies and privately funded environmental groups have been able to sway public opinion about environmental issues in general and the study area in particular. These groups "control the means of mental production" (Collins, pg. 66). Information published about the environment and the restoration reflects the ideologies of the social groups that have access to the media- the social groups with the most power and money. Biased reporting and inflammatory rhetoric are not constructive in resolving this difficult situation.
The other aspect of the situation that fits neatly into a Marxist framework is the inability of study area residents to influence their situation in a meaningful way. Because the community appears to be spilt along ethnic and economic lines, it lacks the "means of mobilization" (Collins, pg. 72). The community has no shared identity, no concept of itself as a cultural whole and as a result it is unable to work together toward a common goal. There is no effective community organization, no formalized way for the community to have its needs represented. The governmental agencies as well as the environmental groups, on the other hand, are very well organized. They have the funding and the internal cohesion necessary to get large groups of people working toward shared goals, while study area residents lack the financial and social resources necessary to do this. I will return to these two concepts and explore them in more depth at another time.
Continuing in the conflict theory tradition, I would like to mention two aspects of the restoration process that have caught my attention. They are the bureaucratization of the restoration process and the resulting attempt to rationalize the natural world.
The Southern Everglades Restoration Alliance fits Webers definition of a bureaucracy (Weber, pg. 196-198) :
1. The functioning of the group is organized and ordered by rules and administrative regulations which must be learned. In SERA these rules and regulations come in the form of State and/or Federal level governmental mandates, or "legislation." Not only group functioning but the products of the group's labor are thus organized around numerous rules that participants feel must be strictly adhered to.
2. There is a system of hierarchical subordination that clearly describes the duties of all members of the group from the highest authority to the most subordinate. This insures that the functioning of the group continues unaltered regardless of who is employed in what position. Recently, the highest ranking member of the Army Corps of Engineers retired, and his position has been taken by another colonel. Group functioning remained the same. (I would like to make the point that the daily duties of a "colonel" , a "superintendent", or a "director" are always the same, no matter who that person is. The "character" of the organization, however, can change depending on the personality of the person in the position of most authority within the agency.)
3. The execution of the groups duties depends on the production, distribution, and preservation of written documents. In the case of SERA, this requirement places a very real strain on the resources of the group. The production of vast amounts of written material costs both time and money. There are copious regulations that must be followed in the preparation and distribution of these documents and adherence to these rules is an over riding concern for group members. Woe be unto you if you have not filed your FONSI with CEQ!
4. Official activity of the group is segregated from the private life of the members. People in SERA work together but it is doubtful that they would every come into contact with each other if not for their jobs. SERA members do not give out their home phone numbers. They can only be contacted during working hours on weekdays.
5. Specialized training is needed. Not only must the rules of the particular bureaucracy be learned, but each area of expertise is the result of many years of specialized training. The areas of expertise in SERA include hydrology, wildlife ecology, computer modeling, political science, biology, civil engineering, law, and others.
Aside from the stated scientific and regulatory purposes for which it was formed, what other social purposes might a bureaucratic group such as SERA serve? The reinforcement and display of power and status are the first things that come to mind.
Control of funding affords the most direct source of power. Concerning the proposed canal to protect the study area-I am told by the Corps that Everglades National Park has refused to give the Corps its share of the funding for the project, thereby making construction of the project impossible. As one Corps official put it, "Funding for the project has been impounded by the Park." Not only are private people negatively impacted, but the effort to restore more natural water flows to Shark River Slough has been stopped by the lack of flood protection for the area. What power! To be able to hold up the entire project, while agencies bicker about who pays for what!
Still another way dominance is asserted is in the ability to "adjust" certain project criteria to the advantage of your agency. This is a very real symbol of power. The fight over what constitutes acceptable levels of phosphorus in the water flowing through the Everglades is a good example of this. Another is the level of flood protection the Corps says it will provide for the study area.
As I mentioned on page twelve, the Corps states that they do not have to give residents flood protection, they only have to provide flood mitigation- they need only supply residents with "pre-project conditions." Failing to properly define what constitutes "pre-project conditions" and then stating that this gives them "greater project flexibility" is certainly a display of power and dominance.
The use of acronyms, aside from their obvious convenience, can also serve as a status reminder. They effectively separate "in-group" members, from "out-group" members. For citizens not heavily involved in the bureaucratic process, many statements are rendered incomprehensible by the use of acronyms. At a public meeting to let the interested public know what was being done on behalf of the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow, one person making a presentation of the measures being taken stated "In order to be in compliance with NEPA, we have filed an EA with CEQ." This statement has no meaning for the majority of private citizens.
As Kaminstein has pointed out, the format of public meetings and the method of communication does little to increase citizen understanding of governmental actions, but does serve to reinforce the distance between agency personnel and the general public (Kaminstein, 1996). Agency participants sit in front of the audience on a raised stage, thus reinforcing their separation from the audience. Information is presented in a rigid and formalized way. While government agencies feel that public meetings are important to "let the public understand whats going on" and to "present the facts" of the situation, many people who attend these meetings retain no real understanding of the situation . I have been to several public meetings where the goals of the restoration process were discussed, but the terms used by the agency players were so technical and peoples questions were answered in such vague and general terms that most people did not gain any greater understanding of the situation or the ways they could impact the situation in their own behalf.
Lastly, the bureaucratic environment can also provide a stage where personal issues of power and status can be played out as the following exchange demonstrates. A consultant hired by the Miccosukee Tribe stated at a SERA meeting that the Tribe did not feel comfortable having decisions made that would effect their lives without they, themselves being involved in the decision making process. The Tribe demanded the opportunity to become more involved. At this, the director of one of the sponsoring agencies threw up his hands and said "Now everyone wants to be part of the inner circle! Whats the use in having an elite, if anyone can join!"
I think this person was voicing a widely held but not publicly acknowledged feeling. People enjoy being powerful and the environmental movement has opened up a whole new arena for power. Theyre not doing it for "God" or for "national security" but for the "environment." People and agencies gain cultural authority by aligning themselves with the environmental movement. It remains to be seen whether or not there will be any increase in environmental quality as a result of the involvement of these bureaucratic agencies and private environmental groups. Also, the social impacts generated by agency decisions remain the same, regardless of the ideology of the impacting bureaucracy. It doesnt matter whether you are losing your home to make way for a sports arena, an urban renewal project, a freeway or some project aimed at "preserving environmental quality", the resulting impact is the same.
I would like to touch on one last aspect of the bureaucratization of the restoration process. One of the stated goals of SERA is to provide for efficient and accurate gathering, interpretation and dispersible of data. But, as Weber notes:
"Every bureaucracy seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret" (Weber, pg. 233).
While this is at odds with the stated purpose for which SERA was created I have to admit that I see this dynamic at work in the restoration process.
There is currently no effective method for the sharing of information about the restoration with the public. As the Miami Herald article concerning the Cape Sable seaside sparrow demonstrates, what the public is told via the press can be incomplete or inaccurate. Meetings of groups such as SERA, where information is presented and options formulated, are held on weekdays when most regular people are at work. These meetings are attended by people who talk a specialized jargon that is almost incomprehensible to people not enculturated into the workings of this particular bureaucratic system. This effectively stops citizen participation in the decision making process, leaving those communities without the financial resources to hire professionals such as lawyers or consultants to represent them, at the mercy of the impacting agencies.
For SERA to function effectively there must be a communication network that enables data to flow through the bureaucratic system as well as from the agencies to the concerned public. Currently information does not travel quickly between agencies. SERA is so new that there are no communication networks between the participating agencies in place. Here are three examples of what I mean:
1. At a SERA meeting on Jan. 3, 1998 there was a lengthy debate concerning water quality reports. For almost forty five minutes members of all the agencies present discussed why there were no water quality reports concerning a certain aspect of one of the projects. At this particular meeting, the discussion centered on who had actually collected this water quality data. The man everyone though had collected it had left for another job. If data had been collected, where was it? No one was quite sure where this man had put the data. Which agency had it? Perhaps it had already been written up-the document might already exist, somewhere. If not and the raw data could be found, which agency should write up the report on it? What funding was available for the writing up of this type of technical report? Once the report was generated, how would it be distributed? Group members talked for a long time. The conversation was very convoluted. At the lunch break, I asked several other participants what the outcome of the discussion was-had data been collected? Did they know where the data was? These people were not sure what had been said either. Recently I have been told that no water quality data was collected from the area in question for the time period in question because it was not part of the original contract for that project.
2. The idea behind the iterations or tests of different water control regimes was to make changes in the way the water control structures are operated and then monitor the results to see if they are beneficial. A team member wrote up and distributed a report detailing the results from the first part of Iteration 7. The data was for time period October 1995 to November 1996. The report was written and distributed in August 1997-a period of nine months. When asked why it took so long for the report to be written up and distributed, the reply was that no one had been assigned to do it. Team members do what they are assigned to do. In any large group such as a government agency, there are only a few people making decisions. If everyone made decisions, forward momentum would come to a halt. On the other hand, if the people in charge do not make the decisions necessary for smooth functioning of the group, group effectiveness is reduced.
3. Another demonstration of the lack of inter-agency infomration flow is the duplication of research. One researchers response when I asked why there was so much inter-agency duplication of effort in the collection of water quality data was, "Agencies work together because they have to-but they compete. In the political struggle they all want to avoid being in a dependent position." No agency wants be in a position where they have to rely on another agency either for data, funding or approval. This lack of inter-agency coordination of data gathering greatly reduces group effectiveness.
This would appear to be a result of the bureaucratic system itself, rather than an expression of individual preferences. In a phone conversation with a hydrologist for the Corps, I mentioned a computer modeling report from another agency. The Corps hydrologist had never heard of it, but was interested enough to order a copy, via e-mail, while we chatted over the phone. I get the impression that many researchers would enjoy the opportunity to interact more closely with their colleagues in other agencies.
This "impoundment" of data has been noted by SERA participants. At one meeting the director of SERA stated "Better data management is critical for the success of the restoration effort." Others at the meeting spoke up in support of this issue. One man noted "We need to restructure the way we do our reporting to let management know how well a project meets its objectives." A US Geological Survey representative stated that his agency was working on a project to put together all of the "meta data" that had been collected and publish it on a WEB site so more people could have access to it.
On the other hand, this problem of inter-agency competition and the lack of dedicated cooperation had been an issue at least since 1970, if the quote I used at the beginning of the section on SERA is any indication. It would appear that each agency involved in the restoration effort continues to function as a separate entity rather than as part of a whole. This has been brought up to me numerous times by people from different agencies. Agency players owe their first allegiance to the organization that employs them, not to the shared, common goals of the inter-agency group.
What seems to be lacking is what Mannheim called "organic articulations" (Mannheim, pg. 106) between the involved agencies. This type of social construct may not lend itself to bureaucratic production. The imperatives of the bureaucratic system-the rigid insistence on protocol, the inflexibility of regulations, the compartmentalization of data, the sheer volume of documents that need to be produced, and the inter-agency competition all preclude the natural growth and development of a workable system of inter-agency communication.
The ability of any bureaucratic entity to effectively manipulate the natural world, to mimic the natural fluctuations of hydroperiod and hydropattern, is also doubtful. The very imperatives that I mentioned in the last paragraph also preclude the involved agencies from responding quickly to changes in the natural world. The natural world does not adhere to rigid bureaucratic protocol, nor does it lend itself to bureaucratic regulation. The heavy rainfall during the present dry season demonstrates what I mean. The time lag between a natural event-heavy dry season rainfall-and the ability to respond by lowering water levels in the canal system, is too long for effective natural system management. Water has been impounded in the Water Conservation Areas and the canal system until it is so high, there are concerns about the integrity of some of the water control structures. At the same time, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow faces possible extinction if its nesting area is not allowed to dry out for its March to June nesting season. Attempts at mimicking the natural hydrologic regime appear to have failed. Bureaucracies do not respond quickly to system changes while the natural system responds immediately. In the past, heavy rainfall events caused water levels to rise immediately. The water flowed down Shark River Slough and out into Florida Bay and water levels then fell. Fluctuations in the height of the water table would have been more rapid than they are in the current system of water impoundment.
While the United States functions politically as a democracy, the governmental effort to restore the Everglades functions as a dictatorship. The people in positions of authority do not have to take into account the "will of the people" nor do they need to be concerned about being voted out of their positions of power. The South Florida Water Management District in particular, is unresponsive to either citizen concerns or political control. These governmental groups have the ability to present incorrect or misleading information to the general public and thus sway public opinion in their favor. They also have (or are attempting to have) the ability to manipulate the data used to legitimize their decisions. The people being impacted by all of this have no way to change the situation or even to effectively complain about it. As the crisis with the Cape Sable seaside sparrow shows, the people in these positions of power do not even seen to be affected by the physical results of their actions. As Mannheim notes in Man And Society In An Age Of Reconstruction, when this sort of situation occurs, when people are not made responsible for the results of their actions and planned criticism is not built into the structures of power, the result is either insurrection or :
"the dominate groups lose contact with the vital tissue of social life and become so bureaucratic that the insight born of day-to-day activity becomes impossible. An unrealistic sort of regimentation disrupts and in the end by mean of "planning" prevents the orderly functioning of economic and cultural life" (Mannheim pg. 113).
While I have focused my attention on the effects of the restoration effort on the study area, the sociological effects of this massive project are being felt throughout South Florida. Other communities are facing similar situations as the ones I have presented here. While some communities such as the sugar growers and cattle ranchers south of Lake Okeechobee are better able to interact with the system in their own behalf, they too are feeling the sociological effects produced by agencies that are not responsive to citizen concerns.
The last issue I would like to discuss is the attempt by the people involved in the restoration effort to "rationalize" nature. Both Weber and Mannheim commented at length on the concept of rationality (Mannheim pg. 53; Weber pg. 298-299). There are two types of rationality-substantial and functional. Both appear in the restoration effort.
Substantial rationality is defined by Mannheim as "a series of actions ....organized in such a way that it leads to a previously defined goal" (Mannheim pg. 53). The other type of rational behavior, functional rationality, is the direct offshoot of bureaucratic organization. It consists of the following of rules and regulations. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it can be taken to an extreme.
Although the ecosystem obviously functions in a logical way, the number of impacting variables is so great that it may not be possible to fit it into a substantially rational framework for the purpose of human manipulation. The Everglades ecosystem is a dynamic system, always in motion. The flows of surface water rise and then recede in a cycle that reacts immediately to changes in the environment providing wildlife with a constantly shifting mosaic of opportunities. Now man is attempting to "rationalize" this dynamic, fluid system in an attempt to manipulate it. The purpose of human manipulation twenty years ago was development. Flood control, drainage, and providing for municipal water supply were the main concerns around which the "control" of the ecosystem was rationalized. Now the purpose is "restoration" of that ecosystem. Data is being collected and used to set "performance criteria" in an effort to operate the water control structures to mimic the fluctuations present in the natural system.
Because control of this water management system will be in the hands of a collection of bureaucratic agencies, criteria for operating it will need to be formulated in order to ensure standardization of operation. Computer programs are being designed to model the impact of different water control regimens on the natural system, but it may not be possible to produce a computer program that will accurately predict the results of mans manipulation of the water control structures on all environmental components. There are just to many variables. A change in one variable (for example raising the water level in Lake Okeechobee two feet during the dry season) can produce an unanticipated cascade of events impacting components of the system far removed, both in time and in space, from the source of the original changed variable.
The other form of rationality-functional rationality-is also at work in the restoration process. The following of bureaucratically formulated rules and procedures takes precedence over just about everything. I would like to finish this section of my report with a quote from Collins:
"As we have become more enlightened and scientifically expert, we have embodied our expertise in massive organizations that no longer think in a human way, but merely follow general procedures. The organization develops an inertia of its own and slips out of human control" (Collins pg. 95).
This statement is an accurate description of the restoration process. The results of the actions so far taken to restore the Everglades ecosystem do not seem to have resulted in an increase in environmental quality. The bureaucratic imperatives have all been followed, rules and regulations have, for the most part, been adhered to exactly. But still the situation-restoring more natural water flows to the remnants of the Everglades ecosystem-has not improved.
Some people involved in the restoration effort are aware of this. After a particularly long discussion concerning the rules and regulations surrounding the emergency actions taken in an attempt to dry out sparrow habitat for the nesting season, one man noted with obvious disgust in his voice, "Youve filled out all the forms! Youve dotted all the the is and crossed all the ts, and the little bird isnt any better off than it was when you started!"
I would like to close with the idea that the people involved in the restoration, as individuals, all do indeed want to improve environmental conditions. No one wants to make the situation worse. I believe also, that most people do not want to ruin the lives of the people in the study area. The difficulty lies not with the people, but with the bureaucratic system within which these people must work. It may be that this bureaucratic system proves to be stronger than the good intentions and dedication of the people involved. It remains to be seen whether or not the restoration will succeed.
From the time that Florida was first settled by whites in the 1800s the Everglades was considered by most people to be a worthless swamp. It was viewed as a resource only by the Native Americans who lived hidden away on hammocks surrounded by water. Every effort was made to drain the Everglades and make it "productive." As the population of south Florida rose, development pressures fueled the destruction of large tracts of wetlands. It has only been since the early 1960s that the Everglades has begun to be appreciated as the resource it truly is. When municipal wells began filling up with salt water and threatened the population as a whole, it was finally realized that continued development in south Florida depends on the existence of the Everglades ecosystem. Agriculture can not survive without fresh irrigation water. Tourists come by the thousands to visit the Everglades. The health of the economy is directly tied to the health of the ecosystem. It is a resource that we can not do without and millions of dollars are being spent to attempt to restore it. Currently another resource is about to be wasted in the same way. While the South Florida Water Management District and environmental groups contend that the people living in the 8.5 square mile area are a roadblock to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem, I contend that these farmers and ranchers can instead be viewed as a resource. The land they occupy can never be restored back to its original state, even if it was known what its original state was. The growth of invasive exotic plant species precludes governmental acquisition and subsequent "letting nature take its course." SFWMDs acquisition of the Frog Pond and the Everglades National Parks acquisition of the Hole in the Donut have amply demonstrated that the cost of keeping the exotic plants cut is more than the government can afford. The cost of condemnation and acquisition of private land is high as well. It is doubtful that any branch of the government can afford to acquire all the land that could be considered "endangered". How else might the issue of environmental protection be addressed? The people living in the 8.5 square mile area do not want the area developed, they do not want it to become urban. They moved there to live in a rural setting. Polls of the general population show that most people want to protect the environment. In that case what can private people actually do to preserve and enhance environmental quality? What part could local zoning ordinances play in promoting citizen-generated behaviors that would benefit the environment? In the agency scramble for the billions of dollars being spent nationwide on ecosystem protection and restoration, this issue has not yet been explored.
Land use issues may provide the next big arena for national public debate. As population pressures increase and the environmental movement gains strength, there will be a significant increase in disputes between private homeowners, corporations, environmental groups, the scientific community, and the governmental agencies whose job it is to legislate land use issues. The restoration of the Everglades is said to be the largest ecosystem restoration ever attempted. The social implications of this project are large as well. How these land use issues are resolved here in South Florida may be an indication of what is in store for the rest of the nation in years to come.
ACE- Army Corps of Engineers
CEQ-Council on Environmental Quality, a federal agency that reports directly to the president of the United States
DERM-Department of Environmental Resource Management, Dade County, Florida
DEP-Department of Environmental Protection, a State of Florida agency
EA-Environmental Assessment, a document
EAA-Everglades agricultural area-a large area just south of Lake Okeechobee used primarily for sugar farming
EIA- Environmental Impact Assessment, a document
ENP-Everglades National Park
EPA-Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency
FONSI-Finding of No Significant Impact, a document
FWS-Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency
GDM-General Design Memorandum, a document
GFC-Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, a state agency
IFAS-Institute of Food and Agricultural Science
NEPA-National Environmental Policy Agreement
NESRS-Northeast Shark River Slough
OFW-Outstanding Florida Waters
PSTA-Periphyton Storm Water Treatment Area, pronounced pasta
SFWMD-South Florida Water Management District
SRS-Shark River Slough
WCA-Water Conservation Area-areas where water is impounded for municipal use
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Collins, Randall Four Sociological Traditions, 1994, Oxford University Press
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CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN FLORIDA PROJECT, Final Integrated General Reevaluation Report and Environmental Impact Statement, CANAL 111 (C-111) SOUTH DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, May 1994, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT: Emergency Deviation from Test 7 of the Experimental Program of Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park to Protect the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, January 23, 1998
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT, Test Iteration 7, Experimental Program of Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes, Oct. 1995, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District 7
MODIFIED WATER DELIVERIES TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
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Moving Toward Ecosystem Restoration, Central and Southern Florida Project, Feb.1996, U..S. Army Corps of Engineers
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