Clarification regarding last week’s story

June 29, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:
Marcy, I really enjoyed your article, “Where is our clean water?” Thank you.
But the assertions about the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow contradict facts I’ve gathered from ornithologists, USGS, DOI/US Fish & Wildlife, ACOE, and SFWMD.
Not looking for retraction or clarification, but wanted to let you know what I’ve found. Biologists including Stuart Pimm and federal ecologists describe the bird’s habitat as marl prairie, whose defining trait is elevation – it’s drier than the surrounding Everglades, not wetter.
The SFWMD water structures that control flows to the habitat where the sparrows nest are gates labeled S12A and S12B, and the controversy over opening them comes partly from their location on higher, drier ground than others; compared to the rest of the structures in the local system, they move less water because they’re higher up, so opening them does relatively little to ease flooding. But it does push water into areas that don’t naturally get much. That’s what happened last year, when they were open all summer.
The claim that the federal government is manipulating flood protection for the birds’ sake is false. It’s spread intentionally to distract criticism from agribusinesses and developers and the politicized water management decisions.
Florida’s water management data are relatively detailed and open to the public, and they help verify/debunk a lot of the information passed along about these issues. The data helped fact-check some of what I got from federal officials for this piece:
In any case, the work you did for your article is obvious, and it was a pleasure to read. I hope you will write more.
Peter Girard