A landscape from our time at Loxahatchee, where we met with United States Geological Survey’s Regional Science Advisor for South Florida Nick Aumen.
This week was a bit shorter than we’re accustomed to, with our day off on the 4th of July and Friday giving us time to breath a little bit. Tuesday we had a stellar meeting with United States Geological Survey’s Regional Science Advisor for South Florida Nick Aumen, who talked to us about the rich history of Loxahatchee.
One of the more interesting aspects of our meeting with Nick Aumen was his discussion of the 1988 U.S. vs South Florida Water Management District lawsuit. The lawsuit, which was filed by U.S. attorney in Miami Dexter Lehtinen, marked the turning point for water quality in the Everglades.
In the years preceding this lawsuit, water quality had begun to deteriorate as fertilizers introduced limiting nutrients into the Everglades. Limiting nutrients, which dictate the growth of plant species, are usually not readily available in an ecosystem but are included in commercial fertilizers to accelerate crop growth in agriculture. If these nutrients enter an ecosystem however, an excess of a limiting nutrient(phosphorus in the case of the Everglades), can trigger algal blooms or compromise the structural integrity of that ecosystem.
The residual cattails from prior nutrient pollution visible at Water Conservation Area 2.
In 1988, it was the encroaching wall of cattails observed by Nathaniel Reed and the discovery by Florida International University microbiologist Ronald Jones that the Everglades Agricultural Area was responsible for the 100 tons of phosphorus entering the Loxahatchee refuge every year that made scientists realize that the Everglades was being severely impacted by fertilizer runoff in a negative way.
As litigations battled on for four years, Governor Lawton Chiles settled it in a momentous way, appearing in court right after he had taken his seat and declaring the water was in fact dirty. His statement along with the collaboration of great minds from Southern Florida led to the creation of Southern Florida’s Stormwater Treatment Areas, which filter water leaving the Everglades Agricultural Area. Though water quality targets have yet to meet the strict(but necessary!) 10 ppb phosphorus concentration, water quality has improved since the settlement of the U.S. vs South Florida Water Management District case.
If you’re interested in reading more about this lawsuit or the history of the Everglades, I highly recommend The Swamp by Michael Grunwald. Though the story of Florida’s natural hertitage is a long one, it is an interesting one. Without The Everglades Foundation’s board member Nancy Marshall giving each of us a copy, I would never have known about the investigative journalism piece that so clearly encapsulates Florida.
Our lunch with The Everglades Foundation’s board member Nancy Marshall.
Speaking of Nancy Marshall, we had lunch with her later that day at the Palm Beach Yacht Club and Marina. During this time we recounted our travels and talked about John Marshall, her late husband. Founder of the Florida Environmental Institute and the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, John Marshall dedicated his life to Everglades restoration. The namesake of this program, John Marshall has served as inspiration for us all throughout this internship as we travel along the path of environmental stewardship.
From left to right: Bella, Zion, Natalie, and Cady on our last day in the office.
Our final week here has been filled with anticipation as we finished our individual projects and said our goodbyes. As we step out into the world we each have a piece of Everglades we will bring back in our hearts. I am so thankful for The Everglades Foundation and for everyone that has guided us along our journey. I will never forget this internship experience.