Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has sent in his 2007-08 budget in for review. It certainly can’t be argued that he’s forgetting Florida’s environment.
According to All Headline News, Crist wants to spend $400 million on the decade-long, $3 billion Florida Forever program that restores water, conserves environmentally sensitive lands and preserves important historic sites. Florida Forever also happens to be the largest land-buying program in the nation, putting more than two million acres into public ownership.
Florida’s waterways will benefit from $332.6 million, an amount that can be added to the more than $2.7 billion Florida has already spent funding more than 1,500 water improvement and preservation projects statewide since 1999. Other smaller environmental beneficiaries of Crist’s budget include efforts to protect Florida’s marine resources, ecotourism, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and initiatives for energy diversity and less reliance on foreign oil.
Needless to say, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is pleased. “Florida is a national leader in environmental protection,” Department secretary Mike Sole said. “The new budget recommendations ensure we remain at the forefront of preserving our environment.”
No doubt that’s true, but progress can be easily deterred by disaster.
According to the Miami Herald, seven manmade levees, the biggest of which will hold 62 billion gallons, will be a major part of the Everglades restoration project. The levees will be designed to “replenish the Everglades, reduce damaging high water in Lake Okeechobee, and give the district more options to deal with water shortages and floods.” They will be “armored,” and be of quite a different design than the infamous ones that buckled in New Orleans. In fact, they will be built to dam standards. Still, one worries.
The Everglades restoration chief for the Corps of Army Engineers tried to allay fears by telling the Herald, “We’re tending to go toward the upper ranges (of extreme weather possibility), particularly in areas that are subject to loss of life or catastrophic failures.”
One hopes so. But given America’s continued – and founded – psychological association between “levees” and “disaster,” it would have been sensible to seek another solution. It would be hard to find even a die-hard environmentalist who would consider it prudent to risk the lives of thousands, if not millions, on structures destined to fail as soon as nature sees fit merely to “replenish” the Everglades.