June 2004

by Robert T. Yamachika

The United States Supreme Court recently decided South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians 124 S. Ct. 1537 (2004), a case which has the potential to significantly affect the government’s authority to regulate discharges into the Nation’s waters. The case revolves around several elements of the South Florida Water Management District’s (“District”) Central and South Florida Flood Control Project (“Project”), consisting of a vast array of levees, canals, pumps and water impoundment areas in the land between south Florida’s coastal hills and the Everglades. A canal, referred to as the C-11 canal (“Canal”), collects groundwater and rainwater from a 104 square mile area which includes urban, agricultural and residential development. At the end of the Canal the District operates a pumping facility (“Pump”) that transfers water from the Canal into the largest of several “water conservation areas” (“WCA-3”) that are remnants of the original Everglades. The Canal and WCA-3 are separated by two levees. During periods of rain, water collects on the western side of the levees in the wetland ecosystem of WCA-3, while rainwater on the eastern side falls on agricultural, urban and residential land where it absorbs contaminants produced by human activities before it enters the Canal. In particular, the water in the Canal contains elevated levels of phosphorous from fertilizers used within the basin. As a result, when the water from the Canal is pumped across the levees, the phosphorous alters the balance of WCA-3’s ecosystem and stimulates growth of algae and plants. Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Mixes a New Water Quality Cocktail – Beware of Mental Confusion and Bitter Aftertaste