Restoring the Everglades: Why and How
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Jacksonville District
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Florida Everglades Cleanup: A River of Morass

In the late 1930s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began studies of the muck thicknesses and other characteristics of the Everglades. Starting in the early 1940s, the U.S. Geological Survey began its studies in the Everglades under the leadership of Gerald G. Parker, Sr., as his first assignment with the agency and it was his first job out of college, so to speak. See:

By 1947, when Everglades National Park was established and River of Grass by
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, there had been a lot of science done in the Everglades. Also, starting in the early 1920s, aerial photography was flown of the entire Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the coastal areas of Florida by the U.S. Navy — all of that imagery lost in time.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been studying southern Florida since the Seminole Wars (3 of them) that were began by Andrew Jackson murderous campaign against Indians, In the 1880s, the Corps began measuring water flows and depths in the Caloosahatchee up through Lake Okeechobee into the Kissimmee. In the 1923, the Corps began controlling the water levels of Lake Okeechobee, after which hundreds (September 1926) then thousands (September 1928) were killed by the lake waters. The Corps doesn’t acknowledge having involvement in south Florida — even though its records show it — until after 1928 when it began rediking Lake Okeechobee.

This was the real kickoff for Everglades restoration:

South Florida could well become “the only desert in the world that gets 70
inches of rain a year,” Governor Reuben Askew said during the muck fires of
the 1970s.

In 1970 and 1971, Florida experienced a terrible drought. Muck fires burned
through the everglades, and salt water intrusion threatened the Biscayne
Bay Aquifer.173 Prompted by this crisis, and in response to the historical
and widespread abuse174 of the state’s land and water resources, Governor
Rubin Askew called a statewide conference in August 1971.175 The
conference, which was called to discuss potential approaches to solving the
environmental problems Florida faced, “was attended by over 150
participants, including developers, state and local government officials,
federal agency representatives, and environmentalists.”176
[ WATER MANAGEMENT BULLETIN, Volume 5, Number 3, December-January 1971/72 ]

In addressing those who offered only a cautious approach, one that would
not negatively affect the agendas of developers and agribusiness interests,
Askew replied, ‘It is time we stopped viewing our environment through
prisms of profit, politics, geography, or local and personal pride.’ He
warned that ‘a failure to find appropriate solutions . . . would be
disastrous to our economy as well as to our environment. The conference
responded to Governor Askew’s theme by drafting a strongly worded set of
findings and policy recommendations. The report stated that ‘an enforceable
comprehensive land and water use plan … must be designed to limit increases
in population . . . to a level that will ensure a quality environment.’177

Florida enacted four laws in 1972 in response to this new focus on growth
and the environment.178 Florida’s approach differed from the other states
discussed above in that it involved extensive state and regional
involvement in narrowly selected areas, previously solely in the domain of
local government.179 The four laws were a) The Environmental Land and Water
Management Act, b) The Water Resources Act, c) The Comprehensive Planning
Act, and d) The Land Conservation Act.180 Each piece of legislation was
politically volatile, and involved many compromises.181


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