A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself

Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker:

Lake Mary Jane is shallow—twelve feet deep at most—but she’s well connected. She makes her home in central Florida, in an area that was once given over to wetlands. To the north, she is linked to a marsh, and to the west a canal ties her to Lake Hart. To the south, through more canals, Mary Jane feeds into a chain of lakes that run into Lake Kissimmee, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee. Were Lake Okeechobee not encircled by dikes, the water that flows through Mary Jane would keep pouring south until it glided across the Everglades and out to sea.

Mary Jane has an irregular shape that, on a map, looks a bit like a woman’s head in profile. Where the back of the woman’s head would be, there’s a park fitted out with a playground and picnic tables. Where the face would be, there are scattered houses, with long docks that teeter over the water. People who live along Mary Jane like to go boating and swimming and watch the wildlife. Toward the park side of the lake sits an islet, known as Bird Island, that’s favored by nesting egrets and wood storks. Like most of the rest of central Florida, Mary Jane is under pressure from development. Orange County, which encompasses the lake, the city of Orlando, and much of Disney World, is one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida, and Florida is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. A development planned for a site just north of Mary Jane would convert nineteen hundred acres of wetlands, pine flatlands, and cypress forest into homes, lawns, and office buildings.

In an effort to protect herself, Mary Jane is suing.

More here.