Wilbur Smith Attorneys at Law donates $100K to Captains for Clean Water

On Monday, May 8, 2017, Wilbur Smith Attorneys at Law wired $100,000 to Captains for Clean Water. This is the largest single donation to Captains for Clean Water since the organization was founded just over a year ago.

“As the 2017 Florida Legislative Session ends, the work of those fighting for clean water continues. Captains for Clean Water doesn’t celebrate victories on paper and won’t rest until the Everglades, our estuaries and our economy is saved. These guys are the new face of environmentalism and they need their supporters to be there by their side. Wilbur Smith is all in. We don’t stand on the dock and complain. We jump in and get wet. Gentlemen, we are in the water fighting with you. LET THE BIG DOG EAT!!”, said Sawyer Smith, managing partner at Wilbur Smith Attorneys at Law

“The staff at Wilbur Smith Attorneys at Law has been incredibly supportive of our organization, and we are very thankful for their commitment to clean water”, said Captain Chris Wittman, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water. “Beyond the generous financial support, Mr. Smith has offered invaluable advice to the organization, as well as made the staff of the firm available for all of our needs.”

The $100,000 donation was pledged at the Captains for Clean Water Restore Gala, in addition to the firm’s commitment as a presenting sponsor of the event. In addition to the financial contribution, the firm will be providing Captains for Clean Water with office space in downtown Fort Myers.

Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that advocates for the elimination of harmful, large-scale Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Estuaries by restoring the natural flow of Lake Okeechobee water south into the Everglades and Florida Bay. Restoring the natural southern flow of Lake Okeechobee water is essential to the survival of our estuaries, the health of the Everglades, and the long-term viability of South Florida’s largest drinking water source (the Biscayne Aquifer).

SB 10 Passes House and Senate!

A Letter From the Founders of Captains for Clean Water:

Today marks an important day for the history of the Everglades. The Florida House of Representatives followed the lead of the Senate, and passed Senate Bill 10. This bill provides $800 million in funding to create a dynamic reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The reservoir is needed to provide freshwater to Florida Bay, and to alleviate discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Rivers.

Captains for Clean Water was founded just over a year ago. When we started, many anglers did not understand the importance of the Everglades, and how the flow of water throughout the state affects our fisheries. Environmental groups have struggled for decades to get this done. Anglers and fishing guides are heavily impacted by the faults in Florida’s water management system, but have never organized and spoken up on this issue. From the unnatural Lake Okeechobee discharges to the man-made hypersaline conditions and seagrass die-offs in Florida Bay, Florida’s fisheries have taken a beating in the past year. Understandably, fishing guides became angry- as their offices were being destroyed. Recreational anglers were also stripped of opportunities to have successful days on the water with family and friends. Captains for Clean Water provided an opportunity for folks to get involved. We brought hundreds of people to Tallahassee, we organized letter writing campaigns and encouraged people to call their legislators. But most importantly, we educated anglers and raised the level of awareness and concern in the angling community to unprecedented levels- an achievement that is far greater than any piece of legislation that will ever be passed.

As we take a moment to celebrate the passage of this bill, take a step back and consider how far we’ve come as a community in the last year. Captains for Clean Water started as a group of fishing guides in Southwest Florida with no experience in community organizing, advocacy or legislative affairs. To top that off, we didn’t start with a small project either- we picked the largest environmental restoration project in the world to tackle first because we wanted to make meaningful change. We were very fortunate to be able to put together a passionate, experienced and well respected board of directors, as well as a team of advisors who provided us with invaluable guidance along the way.

The angling community has transformed immensely in the last year. With help from our ambassadors, as well as companies such as Mustad Hooks, YETI, Orvis, SeaDek, Simms, Costa and many more, Captains for Clean Water pushed this issue to the forefront of the angling community. We received support from all over the country from fishing guides, recreational anglers, and from folks who only make it down to fish South Florida once every few years.

Each and every person that got involved with this issue made a difference, and should feel proud. We’ve taken the first step toward the long-term solution to this problem that we all deserve  But we still have a long way to go. Since its introduction, Senate Bill 10 underwent several drastic changes. It’s not what we originally hoped for, but it’s a lot better than where we stood a year ago. We’re not popping champagne bottles until we can float from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. There’s a long road ahead, and policymakers and water managers have proven to us time and time again that we need to hold their hand all the way until the end. As anglers, it’s hard to get excited about pieces of paper being signed in Tallahassee. There is no end for us until the damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges and hypersaline conditions in the estuaries cease to occur, providing seagrass and oyster beds an opportunity to return to their former glory across the estuaries of South Florida.

Moving forward, we need to continue to build momentum. Without continuing to build support, we will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. Captains for Clean Water will continue to work with all interested stakeholders- as the voice of anglers who make a living, recreate or travel to Florida- to see that those in charge of competing this project do so as planned, and ensure that Florida will continue to be the fishing capital of the world. We would like to extend a huge “Thank You” to the Florida Legislature for providing us the opportunity to continue the fight. Although we still have a long uphill battle ahead, we reached an important milestone with the passage of this legislation which is now on its way to be signed by the Governor. When sportsmen come together on an issue, we don’t put it to rest until the problem is solved. Thank you for allowing us, a group of captains, to fight for clean water for all Floridians.

Sincerely,
Capt. Daniel Andrews & Capt. Chris Wittman

Florida Senate Takes Important First Step in Saving the Everglades after NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day! 

Thanks to the incredible outpouring of support of fishing guides, industry leaders, and recreational and commercial anglers – who all traveled to Tallahassee on April 11th to ask legislators for help – Florida has taken the first major step in years to send Lake Okeechobee waters south. One day after NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day, the Florida Senate passed SB-10 by an incredible margin, 36-to-3.

This was also the first time in over twenty years that the sportfishing industry mobilized to demand action in Tallahassee. Since the gill net ban in 1994, anglers have stayed out of the dealings in Tallahassee (for a good reason- fishing is much more enjoyable than politics!) But, as proven throughout history, when fisheries are being destroyed, anglers are willing to do anything and everything to save them.

After a morning press conference at the Florida Press Association participants broke into teams and worked the halls of the Senate and House of Representatives.  Meetings were held in the offices of more than 50 Senators and Representatives.  Included in the slate of legislators that teams met with was Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran.

During the meeting with Speaker Corcoran, Congressman Brian Mast of Florida’s 18th Congressional District emphasized the importance of the EAA reservoir in alleviating Lake Okeechobee discharges and restoring the natural flow of water.  While donning a Captains for Clean Water baseball cap, Congressman Mast pledged to Speaker Corcoran support in Washington D.C.

Sportfishing Day concluded at a local legislature favorite, The Edison. Whereby hundreds of supporters ranging from anglers, fishing industry giants, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Representatives Heather Fitzenhagen, Holly Raschein, and Neil Combee, and many more gathered to rally for clean water and to save the Everglades.

Captains for Clean Water is continuing to build momentum. “The incredible support from fishing industry giants such as Yeti, SeaDek, Simms, Costa, Mustad, Florida Sportsman, Hell’s Bay Boatworks and many other companies has empowered us to quickly become the leading group of resource users fighting for clean water in Florida”, said Capt Daniel Andrews, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water. “I represent an awful lot of conservation advocacy groups, but honestly I have a heartfelt connection to Captains for Clean Water, because I want these guys to have my back if my water were to have problems.” Said Capt. CA Richardson, host of FlatsClass TV.

The finale of the event occurred when Fort Myers Attorney and Captains for Clean Water advisor, Sawyer Smith of Wilbur Smith Attorneys at Law, presented Captains Chris Wittman and Daniel Andrews a ceremonial check to Captains for Clean Water in the amount of $100,000.

It’s critically important for all Floridians to get involved with this issue, as we still have an enormous battle ahead of us. The bill, which still has to pass the House of Representatives (without being harmfully amended) and be signed by the governor, is merely a first step in the effort to end harmful discharges into the coastal estuaries and restore the desperately needed flow of clean freshwater into Florida Bay.

Be part of the solution: Join Captains for Clean Water today.

Special thanks to SeaDek, Simms, Costa, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, Mustad, MANG, Florida Fishing Products, Skinny Water Culture, Patagonia and Carbon Marine for taking part in the event.

We would also like to thank the other organizations who made the event a success: Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Bullsugar, Florida Wildlife Federation, International Gamefish Association, FSU Fishing Club and Everglades Trust.

Captains for Clean Water gains support for science-based solutions to save the Everglades.

More than 350 fishermen, outdoorsmen and concerned citizens gathered at the Historic Burroughs Home in Fort Myers on March 3 for the inaugural “Restore Clean Water Gala.” Fishing legends and TV personalities, including Blair Wiggins, George Gozdz, Rob Fordyce, Peter Miller and Carter Andrews were on hand to show their support for cleaning up Florida’s estuaries. Host of TV’s “Flats Class” C.A Richardson emceed the event, and Zac Jud, Ph.D. motivated the overflowing crowd with his explanation of the challenges and possible solutions to the manmade problems that degrade water quality in South Florida. When event organizer Sawyer Smith asked for financial assistance, the response was overwhelming with pledges totaling more than $300,000.

Captains for Clean Water co-founder Capt. Daniel Andrews said “We are extremely grateful to everyone who came to the Restore Clean Water Gala to champion a cause that means so much to all of us. We are truly humbled by the support we received. It was an inspiring night, and we cannot thank our supporters enough.”

Co-founder Capt. Chris Whitman said, “Habitat loss from decades of water mismanagement has Florida’s most prized fishing areas on life support; from the lakes of central Florida all the way to Florida Bay, anglers are the canaries in the coal mine and we have joined together to protect our industry which represents well over a $9 billion contribution to Florida’s economy”

Captains for Clean Water also works to unite stakeholders by finding common ground to fight for clean water and to promote long-term, science-based solutions to the South Florida water crisis.

Captains for Clean Water is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that advocates for healthy marine ecosystems in  Florida by improving water quality.  CFCW was formed under a year ago when a group of fishing guides from Fort Myers decided they had enough of Florida’s poor water management practices and it was time to stand up and protect their livelihood and way of life for future generations. Through education, awareness, and taking their authentic message to our elected officials, waters that have been compromised by years of mismanagement can be restored and Florida’s estuaries can be preserved.

In the face of large scale propaganda campaigns funded by outside special interests, Captains for Clean Water is working to educate and inform Floridians about this extremely important issue. All funds raised are used to help Floridians better understand this critically important issue and the scientifically supported solutions available to our state.

Photos from Florida Weekly:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/fortmyersfloridaweekly/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1152703228171679

You are Never too Young to Learn about the World Around You

Last week, Capt. Chris Wittman and Wyler Gins of Captains for Clean Water had the opportunity to educate 80 second graders at Heights Elementary, in Fort Myers, FL. After learning about the water issues in Florida from their teacher, the students were very interested. They wanted to learn more to better understand the problems facing their own local waterways. Intrigued by their interest, their teacher reached out to Captains for Clean Water and asked them to come in and talk to the students.

Chris and Wyler began their presentation explaining the historic flow of water through the Everglades by showing an old map of Florida. The students were fascinated and some even knew about how the Everglades cleaned the water as the water flowed south. When asked what was the biggest difference between the water in the Keys and the water in Fort Myers, many kids raised their hands, all having the same answer. “The water is so clear in the Keys!” Many of the students had questions about why the water in their back yard isn’t as clear as the Keys. They also wondered why their parents have been telling them they can’t swim in the Caloosahatchee River anymore.

Once explaining the importance of the Everglades in keeping South Florida’s water clean and healthy, the Captains explained the major changes made to Florida’s hydrology in the past century. The draining, damming and diking of the Everglades changed the water flows throughout the state, which caused great harm to all of the estuaries in South Florida. With the eagerness to understand, the students were ready to become involved. The Captains presented a challenge to the students. They were given a map, a few crayons, and the direction to draw or explain a solution to this issue. They colored in the historic Everglades, showing how the water needs to flow south. The second graders’ ability to understand the problem and solution shows how fundamentally simple it is to fix our water crisis.

After a few more discussions, one group of students raised their hands to ask about the animals and how this affects them. The students drew fish, manatees, alligators, birds and many other species. They made the connection that without clean, healthy water, the animals wouldn’t be healthy either.

Chris and Wyler explained how it would cost a lot of money to fix a problem this big. The students did not understand. They wanted to know why they wouldn’t “Just fix it”, since the problem impacts so many people. Talan, an eight-year-old, stood up and wanted to voice his thoughts. He said, “It makes me sad that people are poisoning the water and the habitats that so many animals and plants depend on to live!” He went on- “It isn’t all about money! Who cares about money. We don’t even really need it. We just need to clean our water!” 

For the sake of these kids, and future generations, it is our responsibility to fight to protect our estuaries. Restoring the Everglades is an investment in our future, and our kids’ future. Help us make a difference!

Fast-Track EAA Reservoir to Save Our Estuaries

Last week, Senator Bradley filed a bill to purchase 60,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to construct a dynamic reservoir to alleviate discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, and provide desperately needed water supply to Florida Bay. This essential component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) has been talked about, and postponed for most of my life, while our estuaries have steadily declined, creeping closer and closer to their tipping point.

The current approach to Everglades restoration by our water managers is not working. CERP was passed 17 years ago, and the estuaries of South Florida are continuing to decline rapidly. I would argue that they’re declining faster now than they were 17 years ago when CERP was passed. Up until this point, the focus of Everglades restoration has been on ancillary projects that do not address the root of the problem- the River of Grass has been dammed and diverted by way of manmade canals to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Until we address the root of the problem, our community and economy will continue to suffer. This approach reminds me of the saying “The surgery was a success, but the patient died.” That’s what I see happening with our estuaries and the Everglades. I’ve seen so many presentations on the success of Everglades restoration, but just last year Florida Bay experienced a 50,000 acre seagrass die-off due to lack of freshwater flow, the St. Lucie was covered in toxic green algae, and the Caloosahatchee was bombed by high volume, unnatural discharges. Our “patient” is having a heart attack, and our team of doctors are treating the patient for arthritis.

I made my first trip to Tallahassee one year ago with my good friend, and co-founder of Captains for Clean Water, Capt. Chris Wittman. After meeting with scientists at FGCU and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, we were prepared to sit down with our policymakers to help them understand our concerns. When we parked our trucks and headed toward the Capitol building, Chris looked at me and said “You know there’s a serious problem when we’re wearing suits in Tallahassee.” We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into- that we would end up dedicating so much of our time to this. But we promised each other, and promised all of the guides, businesses and families in South Florida that we were going to get this problem fixed. We weren’t going to give up- no matter what.

This is a contentious issue in Tallahassee. There are powerful interests that benefit from the current water management system. We weren’t intimidated by the swarms of lobbyists racing through the hallways of the Capitol. They are getting paid to fight for something that doesn’t directly affect their lives, but we are fighting for something we love. The corporate sugar industry has hired 64 lobbyists to oppose this project that is vital to saving Florida’s estuaries. We don’t have the money to hire any lobbyists, but we do have the passion, good will, and the power of the people needed to make this essential project happen.

That being said, I don’t think there is time for finger pointing, we need to move forward and prioritize projects that will seriously make a difference to stop the discharges, rehydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay, and provide increased flood protection to the Glades communities. That’s why we’re supporting Senate Bill 10. The vast majority of the independent science community believes this project is essential to alleviating the discharges and saving Florida Bay. It’s not my job to analyze the political climate in Tallahassee and work within the agendas of the politicians. My passion and moral responsibility is to help save our estuaries that provide incalculable benefits to our economy, community and way of life. 

While projects can look appealing on paper, in presentations and from a helicopter, I always ask “What percent better will this make our estuary?” The timer is ticking for our estuaries, and the price of land and construction will only go up. I’m all for completing existing projects, but Component G of CERP (SB10), which would alleviate Lake Okeechobee discharges by up to 50%, is essential, and without it the estuaries and economies they support will continue to wither away.

Sincerely,

Capt. Daniel Andrews
President, Co-Founder

Captains for Clean Water commends Senator Rob Bradley for filling SB10!

Captains for Clean water is proud to announce the Filing of Florida Senate Bill 10 designed to reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and provide needed water to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

After testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources yesterday we were extremely excited to see the quick response from Senator Rob Bradley that addressed many of our concerns. Committee Chair Rob Bradley noted that the “current projects fail to include one significant component that the majority of scientists and experts uniformly agree on – a long-term solution that requires additional land and storage south of Lake Okeechobee.”

Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

SB10 would add a new section to the Florida Statutes authorizing a Reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area; this project has the intent of creating 360,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity along with the acquisition of 60,000 acres of land from willing sellers. This proposed reservoir is expected to hold approximately 120 billion gallons of water and would be dynamic in nature meaning that as soon as the existing storm water treatment areas are ready to accept additional water, more water would be moved into this reservoir that would also supply a much needed source of water in times of drought to the often parched Everglades and Florida Bay.

The estimated cost of a reservoir is expected to total roughly $2.4 billion. With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion. The bill authorizes the annual use of approximately $100 million of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by Amendment 1, approved by voters in 2014, over the next 20 years to finance the plan.

The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District to begin the formal process of purchasing land from willing sellers and operates under the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a partnership between the state and federal government.

Senate President Joe Negron stated “For nearly two decades, there has been scientific consensus and recognition by state leaders that additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is necessary to stop this ongoing problem; from Governor Jeb Bush’s historic support of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000; to the recent University of Florida Water Institute study commissioned by the Senate and completed in 2015,” continued President Negron. “This legislation provides a clear plan to address this plague on our communities in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners.”

According to the bill, If the SFWMD is unable to identify sellers of land appropriate for a reservoir through an open solicitation by the end of 2017, the legislation authorizes the Board of Trustees to exercise the option with U.S. Sugar entered into in 2010 to buy 153,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, for the purpose of securing the 60,000 acres necessary for the reservoir and to begin the planning the construction of the needed reservoir.

The bill goes on to state that if the State is ultimately unable to purchase land for the reservoir by November 30, 2018, the legislation increases the ongoing Legacy Florida appropriation by an additional $50 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which includes a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area as a key component.

Please make sure to join us in Tallahassee on April 11th, 2017 for the  NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day and remind our elected officials about the importance that our industry has to our State’s economy and overall quality of life: https://www.facebook.com/events/793871580765898/

A full text of the bill can be seen here: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0010/BillText/Filed/PDF

Official Press release: http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/2621

 

Sincerely,

Capt. Daniel Andrews
President, Co-Founder

Back to Tallahassee!

On Wednesday morning, Co-Founders of Captains for Clean Water Capt. Daniel Andrews and Capt. Chris Wittman traveled to Tallahassee for the second time this month to speak to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. Along with Chris and Daniel was James Evans, the Director of Natural Resources for Sanibel Island, David Schulendfrei, Past President of the Sanibel-Captiva Realtors Association, and Chris Davison, VP and General Manager of Island Inn and Board Member of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce. We each got to speak and show our support for Senator Negron’s plan to purchase EAA land to construct the critical EAA Reservoir project. After the committee hearing on the Lake Okeechobee and Everglades issues, Daniel and Chris met with several key legislators to stress the importance of a long term solution to our water crisis. Read the important message sent to the Florida Legislature by the founders of Captains for Clean Water below.

To The Florida Legislature:

I am a 25 year old Fort Myers native, and co-founder of Captains for Clean Water. I grew up fishing the waters surrounding Fort Myers and Sanibel with my family, and walked away from a full scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University to pursue my dreams as a full time fishing guide. As a small business owner, I fully depend on the health of the estuaries to make a living. The future of my business- and the future of the $25 billion fishing and boating industry in Florida are directly tied to the water quality in our estuaries.

No matter how you look at it- we have a serious problem. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are in long term decline due to massive, unnatural discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, Florida Bay, located at the southern tip of the Everglades, is dying because it isn’t getting enough freshwater. When God designed this magnificent ecosystem- he had it right. We’ve disrupted the natural flow of water through the state, and inflicted harm upon the estuaries for decades. It is our responsibility, and in our best interest to move forward with projects that will make meaningful differences to our estuaries for the sake of our economy and quality of life.

Looking at graphs and charts of our water conditions can be confusing, and at times boring. But sitting on an 18 foot boat all day with a client who is paying upwards of a thousand dollars for a day of fishing is nothing short of frustrating when we are trying to fish barren sand flats that used to be covered in seagrass and oyster beds filled with fish and other marine life. My clients often come to Florida for the first time on a fishing trip, and end up buying houses, and starting businesses in the area. They spend money at hotels, restaurants, and retail stores in the area.

We are faced with a dilemma: Everglades restoration is a multifaceted effort, and our estuaries are withering away at an alarming rate. It is imperative that we prioritize projects that will do the most to alleviate discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, while at the same time providing clean freshwater for the Everglades. Increased storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is essential to solving our water crisis. Senator Negron’s plan to construct a 60,000 acre reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area needs to be at the very top of Everglades restoration projects. It simply can’t happen fast enough.

As fishing guides in South Florida, we are the “canaries in the coal mine”, and the canaries are dying. If we continue to allow our estuaries to wither away, our economy will collapse. That is why Captains for Clean Water quickly gained the support of the leading corporations in the fishing industry such as Yeti Coolers, Orvis, Simms, Patagonia, Mustad Hooks, Costa Sunglasses, SeaDek and many others. They’re counting on us to keep Florida the Fishing Capital of the World.

Sincerely,

Capt. Daniel Andrews
President, Co-Founder

WE NEED YOUR HELP IN TALLAHASSEE!!

First Tallahassee Trip of 2017!

On Wednesday, January 11th, we made a trip to Tallahassee for the first Senate subcommittee meeting on the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee discharges. Captain Daniel Andrews, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water was joined by James Evans, Director of Natural Resources for the City of Sanibel, Chris Davison, General Manager of Island Inn, and Board Member for the Sanibel – Captiva Chamber of Commerce, and David Schuldenfrei, Past President of the Sanibel & Captiva Realtors Association.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Rob Bradley, heard presentations by scientists, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. Chairman Bradley identified two problems that they intended two address- the excess freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, as well as the lack of freshwater flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Dr. Wendy Graham of the UF Water Institute and Dr. Gary Goforth both highlighted the need for massive amounts of storage throughout the Greater Everglades system. Dr. Wendy Graham’s presentation showed it is possible to reduce the harmful discharges by about 80-90% by adding ~1 million acre feet of storage in the system. Dr. Goforth highlighted the advantages of storage south of Lake Okeechobee. Dr. Goforth explained that storage south of the lake is dynamic. Reservoirs temporarily store water which is then sent to Stormwater Treatment Areas where the water is cleaned then sent to the Everglades. Conversely, northern storage is finite. Once the reservoir is full, the water has to go into Lake Okeechobee where it will be discharged to the rivers. Also, reservoir to the north of the lake does not provide the Everglades with desperately needed freshwater.

Lt. Colonel Jennifer Reynolds of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) gave a presentation on the Army Corp’s responsibilities for the restoration of the Everglades. Lt. Colonel Reynolds stated that the USACOE would be interested in expediting the planning of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) storage project, provided there was state and federal funding, and they had a state partner, which would be the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Currently, planning for the EAA storage project is slated to begin in 2021. Pete Antonacci of the SFWMD spoke, but did not say whether the SFWMD was willing to expedite the EAA storage project. At one point he deferred to chairman Bradley, saying the district does what it is told to do by the Legislature, with funding provided by the Legislature.

Our presence at the meeting was noted by several senators on the committee. It is critically important for our cause to be represented throughout the entire legislative process. Presence in these meetings, as well as meeting with legislators is very important. We will be back and forth to the Capitol throughout the legislative session. 2017 is shaping up to be a big year for us in Tallahassee. Senate President Joe Negron’s number one priority is the purchase of ~60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee to build the EAA reservoir.

If you are interested in joining us on a trip to Tallahassee, please send us an email. A trip to the Capitol is worth hundreds of phone calls and emails.

Special thanks to Associates & Bruce L. Scheiner for providing us a flight to Tallahassee. We wouldn’t have been able to make it without your support!

Opportunity for Recovery

As the rain subsides and our waters begin to clear, many Florida residents will breathe a sigh of relief. But for those of us who make our living on the water, we will continue to suffer from the lasting effects of the man-made Lake Okeechobee discharges into our estuaries. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries suffered immensely this year. Large areas of seagrass and oyster beds died as a result of sustained, high volume freshwater discharges into the estuaries. To many folks, seagrass and oysters may not be a glamorous subject, but they are the foundation of our estuary and yield an immense economic benefit to Florida’s economy. All of our marine species, from the fish we eat to the dolphins and birds that attract tourists and entertain our residents, depend on healthy estuaries. Unfortunately, these oyster and seagrass beds do not regrow overnight- it takes years of proper management to repair the damage inflicted by mere weeks of high volume freshwater discharges. 

In the words of a good friend, Magnus Gunnarson, “Nature is resilient- but we have to give it opportunities.” Magnus is the VP of Mustad Hooks- the largest fishing hook manufacturer in the world. Mustad, along with dozens of other multi-million dollar companies who make a substantial amount of money as a result of a healthy marine environment are very concerned about the issues facing Florida’s waterways. Our state’s estuaries have been in a long term decline, threatening Florida’s $9.3 billion fishing industry. Mustad is not alone, we have gained the support of dozens of leading outdoor corporations including YETI, Costa Sunglasses, Simms, Seadek and many others.

Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron has made it his priority for the next legislative session to plan and fund additional water storage projects south of Lake Okeechobee. This is the opportunity our estuaries need to rebound from decades of mismanagement. Senator Negron has proposed buying approximately 60,000 acres of agricultural land south of the lake to create a reservoir that would be used to store excess water so that it can be cleaned and conveyed south into the Everglades and Florida Bay where it is desperately needed. The restoration of the Everglades is a multifaceted effort, and increased storage, treatment and southern conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee is essential to alleviating the harmful discharges into the coastal estuaries. There are many projects south of the lake at various stages of completion, including the Central Everglades Planning Process (CEPP), Restoration Strategies, Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, and increased bridging of the Tamiami Trail. These projects are designed to overcome the current obstacles to sending water south, and will not be utilized to their full potential unless we have sufficient water storage, such as through Senator Negron’s proposed reservoir, in the Everglades Agricultural Area, to provide a constant supply of freshwater to Florida Bay.

Sadly, 2016 was a rough year for water in Florida. Florida Bay experienced a massive seagrass die-off due to lack of freshwater flow, while the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers experienced damaging discharges killing seagrass and oysters due to excessive freshwater flows. People are outraged, and now Senator Negron is giving us an opportunity to be part of a science based solution to help save the Florida that we all know and love. Science, common sense, and a duty to our children tell us that we need to restore the flow of clean, freshwater to the Everglades where it belongs. We are excited and optimistic that our policymakers will listen to the indisputable science and do what’s best for Florida and our economy. Sign the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration and become a member of our organization. The fishing industry represents only a fraction of the affected businesses in Florida. If you care about the future of Florida should consider joining  Captains for Clean Water. We need your support today to fight for clean water and healthy estuaries.