The Destruction of South Florida’s Ecosystem

Devil in the Grass includes a local political theme: the clean water controversy, which is a hot and continuing topic in south Florida, affecting both coastlines and its mangrove estuaries, threatening the ecosystem.

The following is a letter to the editor in the October 9th, 2015 edition of the Ft. Myers Beach (The Island) Sandpaper:

Everglades Gator


Congratulations to your activities on the bridge!! Finally somebody is doing something, although the Gulf waters are becoming worse every day.

Ft. Myers advertisements promise emerald beaches to tourists coming either from the North or even from overseas spending a lot of money only to find themselves betrayed. Instead the emerald beaches, they find dirty brown stinking gulf waters where going in might lead to dangerous infections. How dare people invite tourists to FMB any longer!

*We have been coming to FMB for 16 years and it has always been bad by the beginning of August. But this year tops everything. We won’t come down anymore and we’ll tell friends not to come. *

I’m sorry FMB as I loved it here so much. Ingrid Schlimm – Germany

As owners of property on FMB, we too have seen the change to the ecosystem, and inspired me to include the water issue in my novel. The following is my brief synopsis of the problem:

Over the past 80 years, the farming industry in Florida, including Sugarcane, Cattle and Citrus have slowly taken over much of the natural wetlands in central and south Florida. The once natural flow of water from the central lakes, most predominantly Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed have been diverted to the benefit of the farmlands.

The balance of fresh water and salt water in the Caloosahatchee is precarious. The river requires a minimum and cannot exceed a maximum flow of fresh water to maintain this balance. Water management effects other river systems as well, but I will use the Caloosahatchee as an example as it effects where I live.

In the dry season, the minimum required flow has diminished below the required level, often to the point of zero flow, which salinizes the river and its estuaries. The river in effect becomes toxic to many species of plant and wildlife, threatening to destroy some of these natural wonders, including the manatee and tapegrass as well as effecting drinking water. However, the flow of water has not been restricted to private farming industries.

In the wet season, Lake Okeechobee threatens to overflow its banks. Instead of allowing the water to take it’s million year old course through the everglades, water is let out through the major river systems, bringing with it pesticides and fertilizers. The pesticides kill wildlife and the fertilizers have created a serious algae issue in the backwater estuaries. The releasing of the excess water exceeds the maximum fresh water that is required to maintain the river system’s precarious balance of salinity. In effect, muddy water is jettisoned into the estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico, creating havoc within the ecosystem.

The Water Resources and Development Act signed by Obama in 2014, authorizes the U.S. army corps to begin work on restoring the health of the watershed. However, funding will be an ongoing issue.

In my fictional crime thriller, Devil in the Grass, the Hero – Jackson Walker works for Senator James Hunter, who supports what I call: “The Fresh Water Bill”. A benefactor of the farming industry, Henrietta LePley, is the antagonist who plots to derail the Senator’s legislation. Jackson is framed in a devilish murder and the Senator is implicated, providing the backdrop for a page turning thriller.

I welcome any comments on the south Florida water issue. Even though my book is fiction, the water issue is a real concern to me as a part time resident in Ft. Myers Beach Florida.

Please share with your tribe!

1 thought on “The Destruction of South Florida’s Ecosystem”

  1. Hello Chris

    This is a very interesting post. Being a fisherman, I’m concerned with the saltwater estuaries and the effects of the water being dumped down he rivers. Keep up the good work.


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