One Hundred Seventy-Three years ago, the largest Native American Indian battle fought east of the Mississippi by the US Government was against the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes at Taylor Creek.
Now, two new battles are being fought at Taylor Creek.
One battle to remove phosphorus from water headed to Lake Okeechobee at the Taylor Creek Storm Water Treatment Area about 8 miles southwest as the crow flies from the original battlefield site.
The other waged in the courtrooms ironically by the same Miccosukee Tribe and the same fight which is to improve water quality.
Phosphorus is an abundant element on our Florida Peninsula, so much so we mine 75% of all phosphorus for the US and 25% of the worlds. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring element that aids in the growth of plants and the health of animals. According to the Florida Research of Phosphate Institute “The phosphate comes from sediment that was deposited in layers on the sea floor. The phosphate rich sediments are believed to have formed from precipitation of phosphate from seawater along with the skeletons and waste products of creatures living in the seas.” We also contribute phosphorus through waste water disposal, agricultural practices, and urban runoff from yards, golf courses, shopping centers, roads. One thing to remember is that even if we remove it from the water, it is somewhere else, the air, the soil, in a cattail. We can’t make it disappear.
The battle pitting the United States against the Seminole and the Miccosukee occurred on Christmas Day 1837. It took U.S. Army Colonel Zachery Taylor, our 12th President, and 800 troops to push the Seminoles into the Loxahatchee and the Miccosukee down the Everglades. Taylor’s forces sustained major casualties against the 350 plus Indians in a war that would go on for another 5 years.
Fast forward to the 1990′s. The Miccosukee Tribe, originally part of the Creek Nation, which once populated the Carolina’s and the Panhandle of Florida in the 1500′s, calls the Everglades home. The Tribe alleges that the EPA failed to comply with its duties under the CWA (Clean Water Act) and to find that Florida’s water quality standards violated the anti-degradation requirements ( water should be fishable/swimmable ) of the CWA. According to former Miccosukee Tribal Chairman Billy Cypress, “altering the Everglades natural state is a serious threat to the tribe. It relies on the ‘River of Grass’ for religious and commercial activities, as well as hunting and fishing.”
As a result of the Miccosukee lawsuit, the Florida Wildlife Federation’s lawsuit, and with the latest newcomer to the water standard wars, Earth Justice, the fight has intensified as the EPA wants to change the rules of combat.
Not just for Taylor Creek but for all bodies of water in Florida. Farmers and local governments are crying “uncle” as they call for federal regulators to back off the tough new water pollution rules that would be cost prohibitive.
The EPA maintains that tougher pollution rules are needed to protect public health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational use of Florida waters,
The Taylor Creek STA is one of the two pilot-scale STAs being implemented around the lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the design and construction of the project. The long-term average TP (total Phosphorus) removal rate within the Taylor STA was estimated during the design phase to be about 2 metric tons per year (4400 lbs.) or about 9% of the phosphorus load of Taylor Creek at the project location. The EPA states “despite Florida’s intensive efforts to diagnose and control nutrient pollution, substantial water quality degradation from nutrient over-enrichment remains a significant challenge in the State and is likely to worsen with continued population growth and land-use changes”
Taylor Creek STA is multifaceted as it also doubles as an open space area available to the public for walking, biking, and bird watching. Fishing is allowed in Taylor Creek but not in the interior sections of the gravel path. The walk around the STA is the perfect distance for enjoying the outdoors. Two Circular loops create lots of walking options and makes for a great training primer for hiking or running events. During the winter months walking the STA can be a once in a lifetime experience as alligators gather on the north banks in numbers allowing for great viewing. Herons, Egrets, Otters, Red Shouldered Hawks, and Snake Birds can also be seen at Taylor’s.
The anti degradation requirements are the real hurdles in the battle over water standards. In a perfect world all waterways should be fishable/swimmable. Tighter restrictions on water quality is going to be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher taxes to support local governments and higher prices on fruits, vegatables, beef and dairy from the farmer. Here is the latest EPA Standards for Florida.