Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, Bullsugar.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.
Throughout 2016, coastal South Florida suffered through horrific blooms of blue-green algae and other water-quality nightmares. Organizations such as the Everglades Foundation and Bullsugar.org leaped into action, and a group of fishing guides from Fort Myers who had “had enough” of Florida’s poor water management practices formed Captains for Clean Water. These groups work hard to spread the word that damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries were destroying coastal ecosystems.
Over the next year and a half, these groups rallied support for a project to build a storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which would help to stop the discharges and restore the southerly flow of water to the “River of Grass.” In May, 2017, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that set aside the funds to create the reservoir.
But all is not good. Last Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started sending the polluted fresh water down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee again, and the effects are shocking. Off the tip of Sanibel Island, the “blackwater” discharge met the clear, blue ocean water, and the contrast between the two is stark.
Here are some reports from local media:
- Lake Okeechobee discharges begin to St. Lucie River, increase to Caloosahatchee River
- Lake Okeechobee release impacting Southwest Florida beaches
- Brown water invades Sanibel Island following Lake Okeechobee release
- Algae at Riverland Marina, South Fork of St. Lucie River in Stuart
- Concerns over algae returning
This is a perfect example of a time when celebrating a legislative victory is useless if there’s been no change on the ground or in the water. We must continue to put pressure on legislators to stop these huge discharges of pollutant-laden fresh water. The health of the estuaries and every species that lives there are at stake.