Wednesday Wake-Up Call: 02.14.24

Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout UnlimitedBackcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation PartnershipThe Everglades FoundationCaptains for Clean WaterVoteWater.orgBonefish & Tarpon Trust, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.

US Army Corps of Engineers Announces Harmful Discharges from Lake Okeechobee

As Florida enters the wet season, the level of Lake Okeechobee has been the subject of much concern, and folks have been worried for weeks that toxic lake water would be discharged down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. This morning, the Army Corps announced that, starting Saturday, the locks will open and send 1,800 cubic feet per second into the St. Lucie and 4,000 cubic feet per second into the Caloosahatchee. If Florida continues to receive additional rainfall, flow rates could increase higher, and no one knows how long the discharges will last.

Before human intervention, excess water in Lake Okeechobee flowed southward (left). By diverting lake water to the coasts, these discharges threaten two massive estuaries.

In the past, such discharges have led to damaging algal blooms in the estuaries of these rivers, around the cities of Stuart on the Atlantic and Fort Myers on the Gulf. Everglades advocates have pointed out that the lake has been kept abnormally high during the dry season to benefit the sugar industry, which is why we are in this predicament.

Such damaging discharges are one of the reasons that Everglades restoration is so important. Excess water should be sent south, cleaned by stormwater treatment areas, and then allowed to flow naturally to Florida Bay. The way to make this happen is to continue to fight for funding of Everglades restoration projects and drive the political will to get shovels in the ground.

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