Environment
4:38 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Sen. Nelson: We Need A New Floodgate Policy For the Everglades

Commissioner Ron Bergeron of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stands in almost four feet of water in the Florida Everglades to show the hazardous high water levels.
Commissioner Ron Bergeron of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stands in almost four feet of water in the Florida Everglades to show the hazardous high water levels.
Credit Patience Haggin

This year’s heavy rainfall has sent water levels in the Everglades to their highest level on record for this time of year.

The high water has caused animals to take refuge on a few tree islands, where they are more vulnerable to predators.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are calling for emergency action to have the floodgates opened immediately to lower the water levels in the conservation area of concern.

Nelson is asking for a new trigger policy that would allow the floodgates to be opened immediately when conditions hit a certain level.

“When we establish what that trigger is, let’s make sure the trigger is tied to the well-being of the environment, the wildlife that lives there, the plant communities and all our endangered species. Let’s make sure that trigger’s there,” Nelson said at a press conference last week.

But this solution is not without controversial. To lower the overall water level in the conservation area, water levels in the canal that runs along Tamiami Trail would have to rise temporarily.

Due to ongoing construction on Tamiami Trail, it may be difficult to bridge the area and the increased water could flood communities south of Tamiami Trail.

Superintendent of the Everglades National Park Dan Kimball said he hopes to meet with the construction contractor for the project about opening the floodgates and letting the water level along the Tamiami Trail rise.

“We need to go and talk to them to see if they are okay with going up to eight feet. Anything above that, they say is going to be a problem,” Kimball said. “With the understanding that it be monitored, and if there’s any problem, then we shut it off.

Sen. Nelson said that if a hurricane hits next week, emergency action might become necessary immediately.