S.A.F.E.R. making waves in 'Glades
August 25, 2002 Sun-Sentinal
The fight to keep Everglades canals from being filled in is far from over, but
things are looking a lot better thanks to the efforts of the South Florida
Anglers For Everglades Restoration.
When S.A.F.E.R. first formed a little more than a year ago, the agencies in
charge of overseeing the restoration of the Everglades didn't even know that
people fished in the water conservation areas of the 'Glades. Not filling in
the canals was not even considered by those looking at options for restoring
the historical flow of water in the Everglades.
The members of S.A.F.E.R., most of whom represent South Florida bass clubs,
are committed to restoration with recreation. The canals that they fish offer
some of the best bass fishing in the country and have a significant economic
impact in terms of bait, tackle, gas, food, drinks, ice and the like. When
nearly 100 boats competed in a S.A.F.E.R.-sponsored bass tournament in May,
several people pointed out that the boats and tow vehicles alone at Everglades
Holiday Park represented several million dollars.
S.A.F.E.R. slowly gained attention by attending restoration planning meetings
and getting out its message. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the
South Florida Water Management District are putting together a master
recreation plan to study the impacts of Everglades restoration on recreational
activities such as fishing, biking, bird-watching, boating, camping, hiking
To date, the Corps and the district have planned on pushing the levees that
impede the natural flow of water into the canals. S.A.F.E.R.'s desire is to
remove the levees and leave the canals open. The levee material could be use
to build wildlife islands in the Everglades or, as one S.A.F.E.R. member
suggested, a developer might even pay for the opportunity to remove the levees
and use them for fill.
At S.A.F.E.R.'s August meeting, Kim Taplin of the Corps of Engineers said she
welcomed such suggestions.
"We're in the very early stages of our planning process," Taplin
said. "We need your help to identify other recreational uses and the
number of users."
Taplin also would like to know the specific areas of the 'Glades that attract
outdoor enthusiasts. For example, the L-67A Canal, which runs from Holiday
Park to Tamiami Trail, is a popular fishing spot, and the flats west of the
canal are favored by duck hunters. She also wants to know ways to eliminate or
reduce the impacts of restoration on recreation.
Her presence at the meeting is an indication of how far S.A.F.E.R. has come.
Taplin is the manager of the Water Conservation Area 3 decompartmentalization
and sheet flow enhancement project.
Area 3 extends from the Broward-Palm Beach county line south to Tamiami Trail
and from U.S. Highway 27 west to Collier County. The intent of the project is
to have water flow south through the marshes in Area 3 into Everglades
National Park rather than be pumped via the canals.
If most of the canals in Area 3 were filled, most local anglers would have to
go to Lake Okeechobee to find comparable fishing.
Taplin said that canals could be partially filled or plugged and bypasses
constructed so boats could have access to the open parts of the canals.
Another option is to reduce a canal's depth or width. Dewey Worth of the South
Florida Water Management District admitted that his agency hasn't even studied
the option of removing the levees and leaving the canals.
"The reality is there's a lot of evaluation that the Corps has to
do," Taplin said.
It would be nice if more local bass anglers got involved. According to Brad
Arnold of S.A.F.E.R., of the 32 bass clubs in South Florida, only about 10
have members at S.A.F.E.R.'s monthly meetings.
The next S.A.F.E.R. meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor
World in Dania Beach. Contact Arnold at 1-800-984-9492, ext. 7603 or at
Steve Waters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 954-356-4648.