Groups push for reduction of harmful discharges from Lake O

Published: Updated:
Water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River.

Environmental groups and political leaders are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to maximize flows south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and Florida Bay, as the Corps works on a new lake management plan.

The clock is ticking as different groups push for the Army Corps to get Lake O’s management right. They see it as a chance to send more water south to the Everglades and cut those harmful discharges east and west.

Those discharges contribute to harmful algal blooms and can throw our estuaries off balance, but change is on the horizon.

“That’s equitable for both the heartland communities here in the central portion of the state, here along Lake Okeechobee, as well as the coastal communities who have really taken the brunt of the impacts from the discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” said James Evans, environmental policy director at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“You have a representation from across the board saying what’s happened in the past can’t be what happens going forward,” said Rep. Brian Mast, R-18.

Environmental groups and political leaders sent a letter to the Army Corps, asking them to stop regulatory lake releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers while keeping helpful dry season releases for our estuary.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. We’ve been getting it the worst for a very long time. So this is a chance for us to finally start trying to get the water where it originally was intended to go,” said Jesse Purdon, district director for Rep. Byron Donalds, R-19.

They also want to maximize releases south.

“It’s an entire ecosystem. And what’s good for the east and west, is also good for the southern end of the Everglades, and that is moving more water south,” said Eve Samples, executive director of Friends of the Everglades.

The tentative lake management plan should be ready by July.

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