Captains for Clean Water is committed to protecting Florida’s most valuable resource: water. Through education and advocacy, we fight to ensure science-based solutions to our water quality issues are implemented by our policymakers.
We believe that if everyone knew about the problems facing Florida’s estuaries and Everglades, it would have been fixed decades ago.
Is the brown water normal?
The brown, murky water experienced in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers during high volume discharges is all but normal. Nutrient and sediment-laden freshwater flows cause lasting damage to the estuary. In just a few short months of discharges, our estuary can see damages that take years or even decades to recover from. Freshwater kills seagrass, oysters, and benthic life such as crustaceans that cannot escape from it. This is happening as a result of altered watersheds in south Florida. The solution to the problem is the restoration of the Everglades.
Did the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers naturally connect to Lake Okeechobee?
No. During the late 1800s, The channelization of the Caloosahatchee began. Manmade canals were dug to attach Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. In doing so, the entire hydrology of Florida was changed. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers have been plagued with excess freshwater, while the Everglades is starved of freshwater.
Is freshwater flow into an estuary natural?
Yes, but when natural flows are altered, the estuaries suffer. Too much, or too little water flowing into an estuary will cause lasting damage.
The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers experience unnatural flows as a result of the artificial connection to Lake Okeechobee, and drainage of wetlands in the watersheds.
Have there been efforts in the past to solve these issues?
Yes. Following the massive seagrass die off in Florida Bay in 1987, researchers began to realize the negative impacts of an altered Everglades system. In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP is the roadmap to Everglades restoration. Since the planning of CERP, scientists have found we will need additional projects to eliminate the discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. CERP relied heavily on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR), which is not as feasible as once predicted.
Will repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike solve this problem?
Repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike will not solve the problem. Holding more water in Lake Okeechobee is damaging to the Lake’s ecology. High lake levels kill the natural filter marshes present in the Lake, which further degrades the water quality in Lake Okeechobee. This project does nothing for the Everglades and Florida Bay.
Is this a science problem?
No, it is a political problem.
Will redirecting polluted Lake Okeechobee water destroy the Everglades?
The Everglades and Florida Bay desperately need clean freshwater. Florida Bay gets 1/6 to 1/4 of the freshwater flow it did historically. This is a result of the damming, diking and draining of the Everglades. In the summer of 2015, Florida Bay experienced a massive seagrass die-off due to elevated salinity levels. Salinity levels were twice as high as natural seawater as a result of decreased freshwater flows to the bay, which now relies on rainwater to keep salinity in check. Naturally, Lake Okeechobee and the River of Grass provided Florida Bay with a constant supply of freshwater. Restoring the flow of clean fresh water to the Everglades is also important to recharging the aquifers, which one third of Floridians depend on for drinking water.
Lake Okeechobee water is far too polluted to send directly into the Everglades. The main pollutant that damages the Everglades is phosphorus. Phosphorus is currently removed from water in the Everglades Agricultural Area via Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs). STAs remove phosphorus from agricultural runoff, and are very efficient in doing so.
Will sending water south flood the Glades communities?
It is a common misconception that “sending water south” will flood the Glades communities such as Clewiston, Bell Glade, Pahoke and South Bay. Engineered reservoirs would provide a conveyance system that would safely convey water south without threatening the towns south of the Lake. Currently, the towns south of the Lake are at risk of a Dike breach during storms and periods of heavy rain. The Lake can fill up six times faster than it can be drained. Having a third outlet on the south end of the Lake would allow the water to be drained faster, therefore decreasing the risk of flooding in the towns south of the Lake.