The St. Lucie River Estuary and the Indian River
Lagoon are now in critical condition due to large discharges of polluted
freshwater from Lake Okeechobee and the agricultural canals. The water
has high levels of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen and is
depositing an estimated 200 cubic yards of silt and sediment into the
estuaries each day. Direct impacts of the discharges include fish with
lesions, dying oyster populations and loss of seagrass habitat. Declines
in tourism and in boating, fishing, and all water-related activities
are causing a major economic impact on our community.
"protected" areas are now being impacted including two State Aquatic
Preserves, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary, NOAA Essential Fish
Habitat, EPA Critical Habitat for Seagrass, the St. Lucie Inlet State
Preserve Reefs, and the St. Lucie Nearshore Reefs nominated for National
Marine Sanctuary designation. These estuaries and coastal ecosystems
are habitat for over 4,000 species of plants and animals, including 33
endangered and threatened species.