Reflections from the Withlacoochee: What, Me Worry?
My favorite river may be facing new problems, but are my concerns legitimate, or am I being an alarmist to worry. My section of the Withlacoochee River has already faced numerous challenges from the Wysong Dam, which I fought against for years, and the downstream ecology was changed forever once it was reinstalled. But though I hate to admit it, I have learned to accept and even enjoy some of the changes. Lower levels mean more wading birds at certain times, and I may even see Wood storks, Glossy Ibis, and Spoonbills when kayaking. The tussock island that appeared after the dam was built has sprouted twenty foot trees that now block the view I’d had for two decades, but on the other hand the island has become a thriving ecosystem for baby gators and birds, and does help to keep airboats from cruising by at warp speed.
Those that fought so hard for the dam did so to get more water into the lakes, but apparently it didn’t work as well as they’d hoped, for there is currently a push to get even more water into the lake system, which could mean even less water downstream. Lakes were meant to rise and fall naturally, and not be turned into reservoirs, so I think that is an idea that needs more thoughtful consideration! Less water below the dam if they are successful means more worry for those of us who live there, especially in times of flood or drought.
Which brings me to the Sabal Trail pipeline gas connector that may very well burrow under the river a short way downstream before it continues its journey to the other side of the county. It will brings jobs, help the economy, and bring us much needed electricity say its proponents. The pipeline’s opponents counter that the company in charge has a poor safety record, the news is full of gas pipeline explosions, Spectra Energy has been fined millions for spills at numerous pipeline sites, and most alarming of all, the shale gas it will carry comes from fracking, which is bad for the environment on many levels.
Do the benefits outweigh the possible dangers? That is a debate that won’t be settled anytime soon. I do know however that the river and its wildlife won’t benefit. I also know that the politicians in Tallahassee need to get serious about Green Energy and realize we need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels! Climate change is real, and will have a major affect on Florida in the next century say the scientists. So I continue to be a worrywart – but in the meantime I will continue to enjoy my morning coffee and sunrise over this still beautiful river!
Happy New Year Everyone!