Responses for U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution

Questionnaire – April 10, 2002

 

What are the issues that most concern you about CSOP?  How might the interests of your agency/organization be affected by CSOP?  Do you think agreement is possible on these issues?

The issue of the most concern for SAFER is MOD Waters  projected plans to fill in the L-67C Canal, in particular, and the emphasis on the need to fill in any of the canals which comprise the 240 mile system of canals in Water Conservation Area 3A, in general. These canals constitute one of the finest bass fisheries in the state of Florida. Filling in the canals, given the size and draft of modern bass boats, would for all intents and purposes, close the Everglades off to recreational fishermen. It is SAFER’s contention that the Corps’ plans for the Everglades were formulated without the Corps’ knowledge of the existence of recreational fishermen accessing the Everglades, and therefore, without the benefit of our input. We feel that this situation has been corrected through our attendance at the public meetings, and our participation in the CERP process as stakeholders. We feel very positive that our needs are not inimical to the overall scope of Everglades Restoration, and that the Corps and recreational fishermen can work together for the benefit of all concerned.

 

Are you comfortable with the attached “Purpose and Need” statement for the project?

SAFER has no problems with the actual wording of the “Purposes and Need” statement. In fact, we applaud the Corps of Engineers for realizing that “A whole new look must also be taken at the operations of the MWD system in Dade County…The CSOP plan will involve balancing environmental restoration, flood control, recreation, water supply,  and other C&SF Project purposes.” It is the translation of the goals of MWD, as expressed in the draft of the MWD plans, into actual practice that has us concerned. We at SAFER feel that MWD is a basically flawed project in that it makes very few concessions to those accessing the Everglades for recreational purposes.

 

What are your views on the restoration requirements for Everglades National Park?

SAFER is extremely concerned regarding the restoration requirements of the Everglades National Park. We have found, in past dealings with ENP, the Park Service, and the Department of the Interior, that they view the restoration of ENP as the end all and be all, and damn everything and everyone else. We want to point out that ENP is one of the least utilized parks in the system, and has been plagued with declining attendance and substandard facilities for the past decade. In contrast, recreational fishermen have been utilizing the WCA 3A Canal system for over 3 decades, and, if anything, the popularity of bass fishing continues to grow.

 

What are your views on the appropriate level of flood protection authorized by the Mod-Waters and C-11 projects?

Our concerns stem from the fact that the canals were dug out as protection from heavy flooding during peak rain periods and hurricane season. We view any plans to backfill these canals as detrimental to any plans for flood control.

 

 

 

What are your views on resolving potential conflicts between the needs of the environment and the needs for flood control/water supply?

We firmly believe that these issues cannot be left solely to the discretion of the Federal government and its agencies, in this case ENP, the Park Service and the Department of the Interior. Florida State government and their agencies need to protect the rights of its citizens to determine how the water created by the projects of the CERP should be used. We must not forget that the citizens of the State of Florida are paying for nearly $4 billion dollars of the total $8 billion cost of re-plumbing the Everglades. The water needs of the citizenry are just as important as any environmental need to restore the Everglades.

 

What are your interests in participating in the CSOP EIS process?

Our interest in participating in this process are simple: If we don’t protect our rights to    access the Everglades canals for the purposes of recreational fishing, no one is going to, and eventually we will lose this fantastic fishery, which such a huge part of our way of life.

 

Assuming there was an opportunity for an inclusive, collaborative process for preparing the CSOP EIS, how would your agency/organization be involved? At what stage of the process…? How? Who in particular from your agency/organization would be likely to participate?

Our organization, SAFER, is prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals of maintaining the canals open to boat traffic. We are particularly interested in the development of hydrological modeling protocols, as we are firmly convinced that no modeling has been done based on the assumption that the canals need not be filled in. We firmly believe that the necessary sheetflow,  required for restoration, can be attained by eliminating the conveyance capacity of the canals. We need to see scientific proof that there is absolutely no other way to restore the Everglades, than to backfill the canals of WCA 3A. The fact is, there is none! We would be glad to supply you with a list of a few people from our organization, who are active in the CERP process, and want to be involved.

 

What kind of contributions could you provide to the process?

As recreational fishermen using the Everglades canal system, we are out in the environment        constantly. Over the years, we have developed a huge amount of information and knowledge. We can help bridge the gap between the theoretical and the practical. Many of the engineers and scientists involved in the process are strictly desk bound, and know very little about the Everglades. We can show them the reality of life in the ‘Glades.

 

Are there any obstacles that you can think of to your active and consistent participation in such a process?

At this time, we foresee no obstacles which would prevent us from being active participants in any collaborative CSOP EIS process, but for the purposes of answering this question, we are going to assume that much of the planning for these projects will take place in the South Florida region. We are currently involved in the CERP process and plan to maintain the same level of involvement throughout the Restoration process.

 

 

 

What kind of mechanism would your agency/organization likely use to ensure the active engagement of your decision-makers?

Our members are highly motivated concerning the issues of recreational access to the Everglades. We have established a formal email based system for conducting the activities of our organization, and would be perfectly willing to work through this kind of system  In addition, we meet once a month to review the activities of the various bass fishing clubs which are the core of our organization. In many cases, we have known the members of these clubs for many years through the many fishing tournaments we have participated in, and are in constant communication concerning the developments of the CERP.

 

What is the proper protocol for potentially formalizing a commitment by your  agency/organization to enter into a “partnering agreement” for participation in a collaborative CSOP EIS process?

SAFER would be willing to sign off on a memorandum of understanding at the end of the CSOP EIS process. The memorandum would clearly define the new project scope. SAFER’s signing off on the final compromise proposal would mean that we would agree with the results attained and would take no further action in opposition to the compromise.

 

Are there any processes that you have had a good experience with that you would especially like to see incorporated into a collaborative CSOP EIS process? Are there any processes that you would especially like the Corps, as the lead agency, to avoid employing in a collaborative CSOP EIS process?

We have felt comfortable with the processes that the Corps of Engineers already has in place, ie: public meetings, responding to email correspondence, etc. The one thing that bothers us is the lack of understanding by the engineers and scientists concerning our sport, and the reasons why we are so adamantly opposed to the backfilling of the canals in the Everglades. All we ask of the Corps, is not to be closed minded on the issues of recreation, and to strive to be fair in their dealings with all the concerned parties.

 

What do you see as the key interests that must be satisfied for a successful CSOP EIS process?

We need to see hydrologic modeling conducted that does not begin with the assumption that the canals need to be filled in. For too many years, engineers and scientists have been laboring under the belief that canals are obstructions to the flow of water into ENP. This needs to change!! The canals serve as deep water refuge, not only for bass, but for a wide variety of animal life. The Corps needs to begin with the thought that the canals are a benefit to the region’s wildlife, not a detriment.

 

Given the history of relationships among the parties involved in Everglades issues, do you think they would be able to work effectively on a collaboratively designed partnership for the CSOP EIS process? Why? What would need to change?

This question is very important, as the relationship between the interested parties has often been acrimonious.  Let us explain our position. SAFER, and its member bass fishing clubs, consider ourselves to be environmentalists, as much as any of the members who belong to such groups as Sierra Club, Audubon Society, et al. We, however, are determined to utilize the vast Everglades region for recreational purposes. These other groups are what we consider to be “exclusionists.” They are determined to restore the Everglades to a standard which existed in the dawn of time, but which has not existed in modern times. They are determined to put up a “fence” around the ‘Glades to keep humans from causing further damage to the fragile habitat. As environmentalists we are as dedicated to restoring the habitat to as much of its original configuration as is reasonably possible. Our belief is that what’s good for the environment, will, in the long run, be good for our sport.