Plan Six, the Only Fix

Our Openers column must have been lost in the mail—from seven years ago. But, no, it did run in August 2006 and seems eerily applicable to today. Also applicable today is government’s continuing failure to address the main estuary and Everglades crises. Words from ’06:

“Put that to music, folks, and go for it.

“Nothing else—nothing—will really curtail the astounding discharge agonies facing the two big estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

“Meanwhile, we humbly suggest that all the elaborate multi-million-dollar drainage projects now being promoted with expensive fanfare and glowing government pronouncements are just fiddling while Rome burns.

“All of the works in progress will save just a few drops out of the discharge bucket. That bucket sloshed 855 billion gallons of polluted fresh water last year from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, causing incredible losses of wildlife and life-quality values.

“So what’s Plan Six?

“It’s simply a plan to create a storage flowway south from Lake O through about 20 percent of Big Sugar.
“In most years this new storage flowway would capture a lion’s share of the billions of gallons now shunted, preposterously, to the oceans.

“But is Plan Six someone’s quick dream drawn on a napkin at lunch?

“No, the fact is that Plan Six represents a concept devised and endorsed by the most experienced and qualified scientists in Florida.

“And yet, government, acting in Big Sugar’s best profit interests, has squashed the flowway plan for many years.

“The Plan Six words were simply the numerical designation for one alternative detailed
by none other than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a Reconnaissance Report leading to the ten-billion-dollar fix that isn’t. That was 12 years ago.

“A year earlier, the Science Sub-Group of an overall Working Group issued a lengthy report which included a phrase that stopping the excessive east-west discharges “is absolutely critical to the restoration effort.”

“Certainly our government made, and continues to make, a colossal mistake by ignoring
the flowway idea.

“Of course, many of the projects you see headlined at every turn, are somewhat helpful
for local watersheds and limited treatment. But to address the big muddy picture, the fix is Plan Six.”

—Aug. 2006

Update, 2013: Two years after that column was published, then-Gov. Charlie Crist announced
a plan to purchase U.S. Sugar property for a Missing Link flowway. The deal was pursued by the South Florida Water Management District, but then shelved and a new administration
took office. Now, a new and broader Plan Six is being explored by conservationists. See RiversCoalition.org.

- Karl Wickstrom