Video: “Blackwater” Discharges Threaten Florida’s Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Inlet

A fast-moving disaster is happening in South Florida, as the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing billions of gallons of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Inlet. These “blackwater” events will create a huge kill zone in the estuary and compromise water quality in the lagoon and inlet—areas prized by anglers. In the video below, my friend, Capt. Mike Connor, who hosts a Facebook page called Anglers for Everglades Restoration, talks about how devastating these discharges are. In 2013, much smaller discharges caused algae blooks that resulted in the deaths of manatees, dolphins, and pelicans.

We are in a State of Emergency

Posted by Michelle Jones on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

But don’t just take Mike’s word for it. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute marine biology professor Dennis Hanisak echoes the concern for how water quality will be affected.

TODAY, at 5 p.m., there will be a protest held at the Elliott Museum, in Stuart, Florida. Here’s the description from famed bonefish expert and fly fisherman, Aaron Adams:

We will gather to protest in front of MC Economic Council 31st Annual leadership dinner & awards at the Elliott Museum. Keynote speaker is Adam Putnam. Let’s show them how the discharges are effecting businesses and families. Please come and trailer your boat, bring your fishing rods, bring your signs, bring the family and all your friends. Let’s make sure they get the message that our waters are the most important economic engine we have in our area.

If you live in South Florida and can make the protest, you owe it to the resource and to your children to consider joining.

Click here for the full story on the ongoing discharges.

Follow the Anglers for Everglades Restoration Facebook page for frequent updates.

The line between the blackwater and saltwater is stark in this screencap.
Image via

6 thoughts on “Video: “Blackwater” Discharges Threaten Florida’s Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Inlet”

  1. The new year has brought record rainfall, and the excess groundwater is creating significant challenges for many residents living close to Lake Okeechobee and its nearby watersheds.

    For all residents, including business owners, homeowners and farmers, proper management of this excess groundwater is important to protecting our families, homes, businesses and farm fields that supply our food.

    As the rainfall has continued, our communities have benefitted greatly from the leadership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, which have been doing an admirable job in managing roughly 3 million acre-feet of water that fell on the northern Lake Okeechobee watershed during the month of January, as well as an equal amount received as far south as Homestead.

    Members of South Florida’s farming community have been doing our part to help get through this significant event, minimizing impacts on the environment, farmers, our communities and our local economies. Nature does repeat itself, and I’m reminded of a 1998 report from the water management district entitled, “Hydrologic Impacts of the 1997-98 El Niña and El Niño on Central and South Florida.” A record rainfall of more than 23 inches hit the area between November 1997 and March 1998, and Lake Okeechobee rose to 18.43 feet, the third-highest in the history of recorded lake levels.

    We are all concerned about the impact of freshwater flows from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries and are all looking forward to the day when we can send water south into the Everglades. Thanks to the good work of farmers down in the Everglades Agricultural Area, we are even closer to being able to realize our goal to send water flowing south without having to sacrifice more farmlands in the process.

    With all that said, I can’t help but think of the 1 million people living in what was once the headwaters of the system and the 5 million people living in what was once coastal wetlands and the eastern edges of the Everglades. We all have to come to grips with the fact that, given all the development that has occurred during the last 50 years in this large watershed, there is only so much one can do to manage the large volumes of water that are generated during events such as we’ve experienced in January.

    Unless we all move out of South Florida I’m not sure you can buy enough farmland to better manage events like this. Let’s face it: farming operations in South and Central Florida are the last bastion of green space left, aside from portions of the 10 million acres of state-owned land down in South Florida. And, yes, farmers did their part again by watching their lands get flooded and sacrificing their seasonal crops during the peak of their growing season to help dampen the impacts to the coastal estuaries.

    We all need to continue to work together to retool the system to accommodate the more than 8 million people who live and work in South Florida. Yes, we need to continue to push for finishing projects like C-44 and C-43 reservoirs, along with the Central Everglades Planning Project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Integrated Delivery Schedule. Buying more land is simply not the answer.

    Finally, we need to stop blaming water managers for not being able to handle mother nature’s 1 in 500-year storm events, especially when the very system being managed enables us all to live, work and farm in South Florida. Let’s all be mindful our goal has to be balance and sustainability in a place where we’ve all created environmental challenges by the sheer fact that we’re living and working here.

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