Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Turnpike
When it comes to the Florida Turnpike - you might think the only thing "wild" is the way some people drive. But there are also thousands of animals co-existing with the cars and trucks in neighboring wetlands. In tonight's Carmel On The Case, investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero shows why the animals living in one section of South Florida are in danger.
WSVN--It might seem like a piece of the everglades.
There are fish who cruise along as if they own the waterway.
Lizards - large and small - who hang on limbs and rest on logs.
Birds looking for lunch and finding it.
Even a family of coots waiting for their eggs to hatch.
But all these creatures aren't living in the everglades, they're living in canals along florida's turnpike.
And it's all being covered up in Broward County to add more lanes from Griffin Road to Atlantic Boulevard.
Bev Hoppe: "There's some poor fishes getting it right there."
That's Bev Hoppe talking to her home video camera.
She took these pictures as the canal behind her home was filled in.
Bev Hoppe: "Oh I found it very sad. I kept saying you know - the poor critters, ya know, all the critters are dying - but nobody care about fish and turtles."
Lots of fish and lots of turtles.
The 500 million dollar project will affect 21 miles of what a spokesperson calls - ditches.
Ditches originally dug back in the 1950's.
Nicole Kalil: "With construction we needed the ditches back to make room not only for the roadway but also for the sound walls which a lot of these neighbors have advocated for very heavily throughout the years."
But some neighbors are also concerned about the wildlife that has flourished along the waterways in the fifty something years they've been around.
Loretta Murray: "Buried alive - all these animals couldn't escape. Where are they going to go to? It's a travesty. It's a graveyard now."
Captain Dan Kipnis: "It says to me we're gonna lose a lot of species - fish, birds, reptiles, snakes, alligators and turtles - things that are normally here - we're gonna lose them."
Captain Dan Kipnis is on the board of directors of the Florida wildlife federation - a citizens organization.
He says the area is much more than ditches.
Captain Dan Kipnis: "There is value to this. Obviously its got animals living in it. We've taken a lot of wetlands out of South Florida - we can't lose more."
Wetlands are critial to the environment because they support a wide variety of plants and animals and are protected by federal law.
But when we asked the spokesperson for the turnpike, she maintained wetlands were not being destroyed.
Carmel Cafiero: "Is this considerd a wetland - area?"
Nicole Kalil: "Again it's - it's a ditch."
Carmel Cafiero: "Is it consider a wetlands area?"
Nicole Kalil: "Not that I know of, but again I will look to experts if you'd like me to find out."
The spokesperson later told us by phone - look up wetlands in the dictionary.
So we took it a step further and contacted the U.S. Army corps of engineers.
It says these areas are considered wetlands.
The corps only issued a permit for the project after turnpike officials agreed to keep this area from peters road to broward boulevard and plant native wetland species.
The records also reflect the turnpike will have to pay into a fund that purchases and preserves wetlands.
Carmel Cafiero: "The Corps of Engineers determined this project will not jeopardize critical habitat for threatened or endangered species. As for the critters that won't live through the project - its the price of progress."
Nicole Kalil: "I think the most important thing to know about this project is that there's no intentional cruelty when the water drains a majority of the wildlife goes out with it."
A bright spot here - those eggs we showed earlier - have now hatched.
The baby birds will be able to fly away when their little piece of paradise - is the next to be paved.
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE