What’s on deck in the fight for clean water

June 26, 2024

There’s a lot going on in our world of water quality, with plenty more on deck. From Everglades Restoration funding to the long-awaited implementation of LOSOM to our new program, Preserving Paradise, it’s a busy season in the fight for clean water.

Here’s a breakdown of the initiatives we’re focused on to keep progress rolling in restoring and protecting our waterways for generations to come.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/glades-aerial-6-scaled.jpg?fit=2560%2C1440&ssl=1

1. Federal and State Funding for Everglades Restoration

Everglades Restoration is a multibillion-dollar plan to save an American treasure that relies on annual appropriations from the federal government and State of Florida.

Due to the scale of the plan and multi-decade timeline, success of the effort hinges on securing adequate funding for the plan year after year.

Recently, outdoor brands from across the nation signed onto our letter to Congress requesting $725 million for Everglades Restoration in the FY25 federal budget, which is being worked on now.

Additionally, the FY24-25 Florida state budget (signed in mid-June) allocated $1.5 billion for Everglades Restoration and water-quality improvements, including $740 million dedicated to Everglades Restoration, with $64 million marked for the critical Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir.⁠

By advocating for robust investment, we’re fighting to expedite the restoration process, helping to revive the natural flow of water and improve water quality across South Florida. We’ll continue to push for funding each year until the restoration is complete.

Screenshot

2. LOSOM Final Record of Decision

The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is the manual the Army Corps of Engineers will use to manage Lake O’s water levels over the next 5-7 years. It has a direct impact on the toxic discharges that can lead to ecological collapse and cripple our coastal communities.

Throughout the three-year planning process from 2018-2021, we were active in the conversations and development meetings, fighting to ensure the plan would be more equitable and protect Florida’s environment.

And thanks to your support and thousands of people taking action to secure a favorable outcome, the final framework selected for LOSOM was one that will reduce damaging discharges and send a lot more water south to the Everglades.

But since that framework was selected, LOSOM has been bouncing through bureaucratic hoops, awaiting final approval and official implementation.

Thankfully, the final Record of Decision and full implementation of the plan is now scheduled for August of this year—a long-awaited day worth celebrating further progress in the fight for clean water.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/DSC00653.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=1

3. Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2024

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is a biennial (every two years) federal bill that authorizes new water infrastructure projects and makes improvements to water programs across the country.

Critically, this is the bill that determines the authorization and rollout of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects. For example, WRDA 2018 authorized the EAA Reservoir at the federal level.

This year’s bill, WRDA 2024, has now passed key committees in both the Senate and the House.  Final passage of this bill is expected later this year so it can be signed into law by the President.

We’ll provide a full breakdown of this year’s bill once it’s more finalized, but some early items of note include developments on the Western Everglades Restoration Plan (WERP), the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Plan (LOWRP), the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP), and a critical federal effort to combat harmful algal blooms.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/Preserving-Paradise-Logo_final-transparent-600x400-1.png?fit=600%2C400&ssl=1

4. Preserving Paradise

Our new business-community program, Preserving Paradise, is a unique initiative that brings together business leaders who share a common goal – restoring and protecting water quality to safeguard Southwest Florida’s economic and ecological future.

In partnership with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), and The Everglades Foundation, the program aims to equip business leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for Everglades restoration.

The 12-week course emphasizes the economic benefits and the role businesses can play in ensuring clean water for the overall economic health of the region, empowering business leaders to become a catalyst for positive change in our community and beyond.

With our inaugural program starting in August, participants will engage in group discussions, field excursions, and classroom sessions to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ecological and political challenges facing Southwest Florida.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/gfs_apcpn_seus_fh384_trend.gif?fit=1024%2C742&ssl=1

5. Rainy Season/Hurricane Season Outlook

The rainy season (approximately June-November) significantly impacts water management and water quality in Florida.

With regular thunderstorms and tropical activity, rainfall across the Florida peninsula causes Lake Okeechobee levels to rise, which increases the risk of damaging discharges to the east and west coasts. Along with the summer season and warmer weather, there’s also the added threat of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) presence, such as blue-green algae or red tide.

Due to an El Nino weather pattern this past winter, Florida’s usual dry season was much rainier than normal, and Lake Okeechobee levels were high during the Spring months.

Weather patterns have since shifted to La Nina, which generally means drier conditions overall, but the transition from El Nino to La Nina also means an increase in tropical activity.

In fact, weather forecasters have predicted an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season for 2024 with the potential to break the record for number of named storms, which increases the threat of intense tropical activity dumping a lot of rain in a short period of time and triggering high-volume discharges again later in the summer or fall.

That’s why completing critical Everglades Restoration projects—like the EAA Reservoir—that can help store, clean, and send more beneficial water south during the dry season is so important.

Doing so will properly hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay while lowering the lake and creating more capacity to take on summer rains, in turn reducing the chances of damaging coastal discharges.

Until then, better lake operations through LOSOM and the wet season strategy implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers are crucial for managing water levels and preventing harmful discharges.

Thanks to your action, advocacy, and involvement over the past few years, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District value our input along with that of our science partners at SCCF, the Everglades Foundation, Florida Oceanographic Society, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and others.

Working collaboratively, we’ll continue to be a voice for our communities at every meeting, fighting for our waters as well as the lifestyles and livelihoods that depend on them.

Join Us in the Fight for Clean Water

At Captains For Clean Water, we’re dedicated to safeguarding our waters for future generations. Your support and involvement are crucial as we tackle these challenges and the many more that are sure to follow. Stay tuned for updates on our initiatives and find out how you can get involved in our mission to protect and restore Florida’s precious waterways here.

There’s a lot going on in our world of water quality, with plenty more on deck. From Everglades Restoration funding to the long-awaited implementation of LOSOM to our new program, Preserving Paradise, it’s a busy season in the fight for clean water.

Here’s a breakdown of the initiatives we’re focused on to keep progress rolling in restoring and protecting our waterways for generations to come.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/glades-aerial-6-scaled.jpg?fit=2560%2C1440&ssl=1

1. Federal and State Funding for Everglades Restoration

Everglades Restoration is a multibillion-dollar plan to save an American treasure that relies on annual appropriations from the federal government and State of Florida.

Due to the scale of the plan and multi-decade timeline, success of the effort hinges on securing adequate funding for the plan year after year.

Recently, outdoor brands from across the nation signed onto our letter to Congress requesting $725 million for Everglades Restoration in the FY25 federal budget, which is being worked on now.

Additionally, the FY24-25 Florida state budget (signed in mid-June) allocated $1.5 billion for Everglades Restoration and water-quality improvements, including $740 million dedicated to Everglades Restoration, with $64 million marked for the critical Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir.⁠

By advocating for robust investment, we’re fighting to expedite the restoration process, helping to revive the natural flow of water and improve water quality across South Florida. We’ll continue to push for funding each year until the restoration is complete.

Screenshot

2. LOSOM Final Record of Decision

The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is the manual the Army Corps of Engineers will use to manage Lake O’s water levels over the next 5-7 years. It has a direct impact on the toxic discharges that can lead to ecological collapse and cripple our coastal communities.

Throughout the three-year planning process from 2018-2021, we were active in the conversations and development meetings, fighting to ensure the plan would be more equitable and protect Florida’s environment.

And thanks to your support and thousands of people taking action to secure a favorable outcome, the final framework selected for LOSOM was one that will reduce damaging discharges and send a lot more water south to the Everglades.

But since that framework was selected, LOSOM has been bouncing through bureaucratic hoops, awaiting final approval and official implementation.

Thankfully, the final Record of Decision and full implementation of the plan is now scheduled for August of this year—a long-awaited day worth celebrating further progress in the fight for clean water.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/DSC00653.jpg?fit=1200%2C800&ssl=1

3. Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2024

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is a biennial (every two years) federal bill that authorizes new water infrastructure projects and makes improvements to water programs across the country.

Critically, this is the bill that determines the authorization and rollout of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects. For example, WRDA 2018 authorized the EAA Reservoir at the federal level.

This year’s bill, WRDA 2024, has now passed key committees in both the Senate and the House.  Final passage of this bill is expected later this year so it can be signed into law by the President.

We’ll provide a full breakdown of this year’s bill once it’s more finalized, but some early items of note include developments on the Western Everglades Restoration Plan (WERP), the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Plan (LOWRP), the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP), and a critical federal effort to combat harmful algal blooms.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/Preserving-Paradise-Logo_final-transparent-600x400-1.png?fit=600%2C400&ssl=1

4. Preserving Paradise

Our new business-community program, Preserving Paradise, is a unique initiative that brings together business leaders who share a common goal – restoring and protecting water quality to safeguard Southwest Florida’s economic and ecological future.

In partnership with the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), and The Everglades Foundation, the program aims to equip business leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for Everglades restoration.

The 12-week course emphasizes the economic benefits and the role businesses can play in ensuring clean water for the overall economic health of the region, empowering business leaders to become a catalyst for positive change in our community and beyond.

With our inaugural program starting in August, participants will engage in group discussions, field excursions, and classroom sessions to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ecological and political challenges facing Southwest Florida.

https://i0.wp.com/captainsforcleanwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/gfs_apcpn_seus_fh384_trend.gif?fit=1024%2C742&ssl=1

5. Rainy Season/Hurricane Season Outlook

The rainy season (approximately June-November) significantly impacts water management and water quality in Florida.

With regular thunderstorms and tropical activity, rainfall across the Florida peninsula causes Lake Okeechobee levels to rise, which increases the risk of damaging discharges to the east and west coasts. Along with the summer season and warmer weather, there’s also the added threat of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) presence, such as blue-green algae or red tide.

Due to an El Nino weather pattern this past winter, Florida’s usual dry season was much rainier than normal, and Lake Okeechobee levels were high during the Spring months.

Weather patterns have since shifted to La Nina, which generally means drier conditions overall, but the transition from El Nino to La Nina also means an increase in tropical activity.

In fact, weather forecasters have predicted an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season for 2024 with the potential to break the record for number of named storms, which increases the threat of intense tropical activity dumping a lot of rain in a short period of time and triggering high-volume discharges again later in the summer or fall.

That’s why completing critical Everglades Restoration projects—like the EAA Reservoir—that can help store, clean, and send more beneficial water south during the dry season is so important.

Doing so will properly hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay while lowering the lake and creating more capacity to take on summer rains, in turn reducing the chances of damaging coastal discharges.

Until then, better lake operations through LOSOM and the wet season strategy implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers are crucial for managing water levels and preventing harmful discharges.

Thanks to your action, advocacy, and involvement over the past few years, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District value our input along with that of our science partners at SCCF, the Everglades Foundation, Florida Oceanographic Society, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and others.

Working collaboratively, we’ll continue to be a voice for our communities at every meeting, fighting for our waters as well as the lifestyles and livelihoods that depend on them.

Join Us in the Fight for Clean Water

At Captains For Clean Water, we’re dedicated to safeguarding our waters for future generations. Your support and involvement are crucial as we tackle these challenges and the many more that are sure to follow. Stay tuned for updates on our initiatives and find out how you can get involved in our mission to protect and restore Florida’s precious waterways here.