Problem & Vision

Florida’s Economy Depends on Healthy Estuaries, and the Health of the Everglades

WATER MISMANAGEMENT

  • Three nationally recognized estuaries are in long-term collapse due to the damming, ditching and draining of the River of Grass.

  • In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which is the roadmap to restoring the Everglades.

  • Since 2000, CERP projects have stagnated due to lack of funding and political will. Florida’s estuaries have continued to suffer as a result.

  • The original CERP plan relied heavily on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) to store excess water. Science has proven ASR is not as feasible as once thought.

  • As planned, CERP alone will not save the estuaries. Increased storage, treatment and conveyance of water south of Lake Okeechobee is essential to stop the damaging discharges and to restore the flow of clean, fresh water to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

  • The health of our estuaries, our fisheries, and our economy are at risk of complete collapse if meaningful and scientifically sound restoration actions aren’t immediately taken.

THE CALOOSAHATCHEE & ST. LUCIE RIVERS

The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are artificially connected to Lake Okeechobee by way of manmade canals dug a century ago.

During periods of heavy rainfall, billions of gallons of nutrient- and sediment-laden freshwater are discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The Herbert Hoover Dike, which surrounds Lake Okeechobee, prevents this water from flowing south into the Everglades – where it went historically, and where it’s desperately needed today.

The devastating discharges kill seagrass, oysters and other marine life, causing lasting damage to estuarine ecosystems.

Nutrients – primarily nitrogen and phosphorous – and other pollutants can linger in the estuaries for years. These chemicals fuel toxin-producing harmful algal blooms and have been linked to an increase in the intensity and duration of red tide outbreaks.

Freshwater — even in its purest form — may be considered a pollutant if it pours into an estuary in unnatural quantities or at the wrong time of year.

FLORIDA BAY

Florida Bay receives only one-sixth of the freshwater flow it once did.

In the summer of 2015, roughly 40,000 acres of seagrass died in Florida Bay due to lack of freshwater flow and unnaturally high salinities.

Aquifers in South Florida are experiencing saltwater intrusion as a result of decreased sheet flow in the Everglades, threatening the drinking water supply for 8 million Floridians.

Because of water quality regulations aimed at protecting the Everglades ecosystem, the polluted water from Lake Okeechobee must first be cleaned in man-made wetlands before being sent south. This will require additional storage and stormwater treatment areas (STAs) south of the lake, where aquatic vegetation will remove nitrogen and phosphorous from the water as it slowly flows towards the Everglades.

THE ECONOMIC IMPACT

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Billion
FISHING INDUSTRY
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Billion
FLORIDA TOURISM (HOTELS, RESTAURANT, RETAIL)
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MARINE INDUSTRY
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Thousand
JOBS SUPPORTED BY FISHING
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Million
JOBS SUPPORTED BY TOURISM
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Thousand
JOBS SUPPORTED BY MARINE INDUSTRY
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Million
SUPPRESSED PROPERTY VALUES IN LEE AND MARTIN COUNTIES
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Billion
EVERGLADES REGION FISHERY
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Million
FLORIDA KEYS FLATS FISHERY