The Everglades is drowning, and it has been since June.
Three large rain events brought the wettest wet season on record, and water in what’s left of the historic Everglades is too high for the ecology.
“The Everglades is in the worst condition that I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in that environment since I was about 3 years old,” said Ron Bergeron, an east coast businessman and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner. “It’s very, very critical that everybody understand this situation.”
Bergeron, 73, was speaking to the South Florida Water Management District on Thursday at a district meeting in Doral in Miami-Dade County.
An unnamed tropical system dumped about a foot of rain across south Florida in early June. Hurricane Irma brought another foot or so in September, then Tropical Storm Philippe dumped a few more inches on the landscape.
“Right now there’s not one island of refuge that’s above water,” Bergeron said, “and there’s not one bird that could land, not one wading bird across the Everglades as we stand here.”
Now the lands that are typically above water during the wettest of years are underwater, and the flora and fauna are suffering.
“If we get the right recession conditions it can set up for a good wading bird season but, we don’t’ expect that this season because the (waters) are so deep that the birds can’t forage to be able to support any kind of nesting activity,” said Terrie Bates, a district ecologist.
The islands, many of which are used by Seminole and Miccosukee members for ceremonial and educational purposes, have been under water for about five months.
Worse, the lands will be flooded until at least early next year.
“We’re going to be in this fight for a couple of months,” said John Mitnik, the district top engineer. “And it’s going to take a while to get (water storage lands) back to schedule, and that’s if Mother Nature cooperates.”