In January of this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he would be adding $130 million to the annual budget request to continue work on restoring the Florida Everglades. The budget request is a $60 million increase over last year, and is merely the beginning of an $880 million plan for restoration approved by the Florida Legislature. Fans of the Everglades have been blown away by Scott’s support, and were overjoyed when Scott affectionately referred to the Everglades as “a key to a vibrant economy, coast to coast.”
The proposed budget encompasses multiple projects in the area, many of which will work to preserve water-quality by reducing the impact of Lake Okeechobee’s discharges on the surrounding estuaries and diverting the flow of more freshwater down south into the Everglades. A few of the proposed projects include restoring the Kissimee River north of the Everglades, continued construction of a storm water treatment plant for St. Lucie and Martin counties, and reconstruction of a section of U.S. Route 41 that will allow water to flow south directly into the Everglades.
A healthy Everglades is an Everglades with plenty of clean freshwater, something that the Everglades is currently lacking in. Without enough freshwater, the vast rivers of the Everglades lose their identity as rivers and instead become large areas of mangrove forrest, while the local wildlife struggles to find sustenance. Phosphorous levels in the freshwater being added must be closely monitored as well, as a certain amount provides essential nutrients to local plant and animal life, while too much phosphorous can be catastrophic for a fragile eco-system, causing algae blooms and fish deaths, otherwise known as “red tide.”
The Governor’s news is especially good for local companies offering Miami airboat tours, like Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, who make their livings showing tourists and locals around the area on this classic and unique form of transportation. These so-called Gladesmen are a major reason why so many people have already been able to experience the Everglades up close, and why they now have a love and appreciation for this unique and beautiful eco-system in the first place. With continued efforts, these passionate airboat captains will be able to inspire and educate future visitors to Florida for generations to come.
People all over Florida are rejoicing over Rick Scott’s fantastic news. While significant progress may not be visible for a few years to come, with Scott’s help the process has been heavily speeded up, and residents and visitors of Florida have much to look forward to.