For the past 50 years, a pumping station 27 miles west of Fort Lauderdale has been redirecting the stormwater and other potential flood waters into the Everglades. The water's final destination, as well as its content, are the key issues that concern the Miccosukee Tribe and Friends of the Everglades Inc. who have sued the South Florida Water Management District.
These groups believe that redirecting polluted water into a 915-square-mile conservation area on the edge of the Everglades violates the federal Clean Water Act, which puts it at the center of a Supreme Court battle. The case could end up changing the reach of the Clean Water Act the landmark 1972 law that established a federally controlled system for ensuring clean waterways.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case today. The suit pits the Bush administration which filed a brief in support of the water district and a group of city water planners, Western water districts and 11 Western states (led by Colorado and New Mexico) against 14 Eastern states, led by New York and Pennsylvania, along with the Association of State Wetlands Managers and environmental groups such as the National Wildlife Federation.
The lawsuit, filed six years ago by the 500-member Miccosukee tribe, alleges that high levels of phosphorus in the runoff are endangering the ecosystem of the Everglades, where the tribe has lived since the early 1800s. Two levels of lower courts have already sided with the tribe and the environmental groups.
The many states and interest groups mentioned above filed "friend of the court" briefs, including the solicitor general's office, which will argue today the intent of Congress in enacting the Clean Water Act was to stop polluters and not state agencies which simply are transferring water within a vast infrastructure.
The court is not expected to reach a decision until the spring or early summer.