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Urgent need to complete Everglades clean-up plan

By Miami Herald Editorial. Monday, 08.05.13

It’s happening again, and it’s bad. Billions of gallons of foul brown water are being flushed into two South Florida rivers to lower Lake Okeechobee and protect the Herbert Hoover Dike during hurricane season.

Two lovely estuary systems, the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida and the St. Lucie in the Southeast, are being assaulted by unwelcome pollution.

These two systems have suffered inundations before, of course, but there is a solution that could eventually give these rivers a respite.

It’s a costly solution, to be sure, but then so is every remedy to clean up and restore the Everglades, the state’s magnificent River of Grass. Lake Okeechobee should drain south into the Glades, but it’s so polluted by agriculture and urban runoff — phosphorous, nitrogen and other poisons — that it would literally be a state crime to send the water directly south.

To its credit, the state built a billion-dollar network of marshes to clean lake runoff before sending it southward, but even at that, there still isn’t enough storage capacity to contain so much spillover.

So instead, the U.S. Corps of Engineers must divert the water east and west when the lake level rises to flood stage. July’s record rainfall forced the Corps to open the gates. Pictures of nasty brown water gushing into the two rivers would make anybody cringe. Read more