Damaging Freshwater Releases Again Threaten South Florida’s Coasts

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:

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.

Click here for more information and to find out what you can do.

Sign the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration

Visit the Everglades Foundation Action Center

Governor Scott’s signature has made the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee a reality.
Graphic via the Everglades Foundation

One thought on “Damaging Freshwater Releases Again Threaten South Florida’s Coasts”

  1. There is also a story that there is an endangered bird that nests along the south locks that prevent the locks from being opened for a southern flow. Here is the link and text where I heard about this;

    “Water flowing south between Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay is stopped at the Tamiami Trail in western Dade county, between Krome Avenue and 40 mile bend. There are 6 structures along the trail that allow water to travel south, as nature intended. Half of those structures remain closed until July 15th, due to restrictions imposed by the endangered species act to protect the cape sable seaside sparrow. I have been advised that opening them will result in arrest.

    The Everglades system works as a whole or it doesn’t work at all. Keeping these structures closed at the Tamiami trail causes water to back up in the Water Conservation Areas and Storm Water Treatment Areas. As a result it eliminates the option of sending Lake Okeechobee water south, as nature intended. So, as designed to control flood waters, the water in Lake Okeechobee is discharged to the costal estuaries by way of man-made canals, the C-43 and C-44.”


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