In 1962, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project (“C&SF”) final construction project was to straighten the Kissimmee River. The 90-mile meandering river was drained for agriculture and grazing land. As soon as they started building the C-38 canal, the effects were seen immediately with the disappearance of Waterfowl, wading birds, and fish. In 1971, this prompted conservationists and sports fishers to demand the region be restored. While costing billions of dollars with no end in sight, C&SF projects were considered temporary fixes that ignored future consequences.
In 1983, Governor Bob Graham started the Save Our Everglades campaign, with the first section of the canal being backfilled in 1986. Governor Graham stated that by 2000, the Everglades would be restored as closely as possible to its pre-drainage state. Then in 1992, The Kissimmee River Restoration project was approved by Congress with an estimated cost of $578 million to convert only 22 miles of the canal. The entire project was supposed to be completed by 2011. Unfortunately, as of 2017, the project was a little more than fifty percent completed with a new completed date set for 2020.
In 1986, algal bloom appeared over one-fifth of Lake Okeechobee, as well as cattails began taking over the sawgrass marshes in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Further, it was discovered that the phosphorus used in fertilizer was being flushed into the canals and pumped back into the lake changing the nutrient levels. This kept one of the two soils in the Everglades, periphyton from forming marl. Due to the phosphorus, cattails were spreading quickly and grew in dense mats that became too thick for birds and alligators to nest. It also prohibited the growth of native invertebrates on the bottom of the foods chain due to the dissolved oxygen in the peat and promoted algae.
At the same time, with high mercury levels found in the local fish, consumption warnings were posted. A dead Florida panther was found with levels high enough to kill a human. The mercury was coming from power plants and incinerators using fossil fuels that were expelled into the atmosphere as it fell as rain or dust during droughts. In the Everglades, there are a naturally occurring bacteria that reduces the sulfur in the ecosystem that was transforming the mercury into methylmercury and bioaccumulating throughout the food chain. Thought it still remains a concern, sticker emission standards helped in lowering mercury coming from the power plants and incinerators.
In 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles introduced the Everglades Forever Act, which was an attempt to legislate the lowering of phosphorus in the Everglades waterways. Two agencies, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were put in charge of testing and lowing the phosphorus levels.