Segment: MSD talks about the major drainage periods and conservation efforts that have failed

Source: Interview with Marjory Stoneman Douglas: a tale of two women / produced by Florida International University Learning Resources for FIU/FAU Joint Center. Videotaped at the Douglas House in Coconut Grove, June 15, 1983.

Link to Audio: SPC950A_07

Length of Segment: 00:05:43

I: Let's talk about the drainage period.

MSD: The drainage that began in 1906 has kept on in a very erratic way because they put in canals, they began to put the canals in in the dry season and they seemed to dry up the Everglades and everybody went up to farm and they cut off the sawgrass and built little one story shacks and along came a rainy season and drowned them out. So they all came back to what cities there were. So then they put in more canals, thinking that more water they needed more canals and everybody was building canals. There's a law still on the books that will allow people to set up drainage districts on their own property and they can assess taxes and put in more canals.  So they put in a perfect rat race of canals, some dumping water into other people's land and all kinds of things. So that in '47 the State of Florida brought in the Corps of Engineers under contract with the hope that they would solve the flooding problem 'cause they were still having floods occasionally but not all the time every six years or something like that around Lake Okeechobee, but also to clear up this mess of drainage districts that were going bankrupt and everybody doing all kinds of things without knowing anything about it. And we hoped in '47 that the engineers would really do a job but all they did was build more pumps and more dikes and more canals and they could let water out or they could hold it. And they built three stupid conservancy basins where the sheetflow had been. Number one isn't so important, but number two back in Broward County and number three back in Dade County are simply stupid.  They fill them up with water from Lake Okeechobee and the water just sits there and the water is now polluted that comes in from Lake Okeechobee and then the canals - the Conservancy Areas -- water leaves into the canals that go into our water supply, our well fields. So we get polluted water from the Lake into our well fields.  That's why the city water of Miami has to have so many chemicals in it. People have done it without any regard to the true nature of the land or what should be done.  Probably they have done so much that now people talk about they patchwork it with little things here and little things there that change this levy and change that canal and its all patchwork.  They are not approaching it as an overall thing the way they should. 

I think they're going to have to begin to.  I just came back from a conference in Tallahassee that Governor Graham called who is very much upset and concerned about the condition now of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades  Basin, and he had the heads of the all the departments, government departments that have anything to do with the water, the DNR, the DER, then he had the Water Management District representative, I don't think he had the Corps of Engineer's people - these were all strictly state people  and the Fish and Wildlife and various other departments of the state government for a conference and they all were asked to talk about what they thought about the Everglades and what should be done.  Well as far as I can tell, and what I say by that they  talked with so much detail half the time I would be pretty lost 'cause I didn't know what they were talking about and as far as I could tell each one of them had a small view of it.  Very few of them had -- I think Mrs. Tenkel of the DER and the DNR man had a better idea of the whole basin. They know about that.  All these other people were reporting about various phases.  Those reports will be written and given to the Governor and he had three what you might call civilians up there - a man named Dr. Nelson Blake, and I think Earl Storms. Why I say "I think" I don't think he is attached to the government, except I think he's up there in Gainesville--he used to be in Miami and myself were more or less the listeners.  We were the ones who were supposed to evaluate, we were the evaluators and of course they were still holding on, it went on from 2 o'clock on and at 5:30 I had to catch a plane to come back.  I excused myself to the Governor and he said, well now  can you tell us some impression, what do you think  about all this?  And I said "I can't tell you now, I want to see all these people's reports;  I don't have an offhand overall judgment that I would consider considerable at the moment. I will have to see" but I said again it's got to be considered, the whole basin has got to be considered beginning with the restoration of the Kissimmee  River. We can't do it piecemeal and we can't do it by patchwork. It's got to be considered as a whole.