Lake Okeechobee Discharges

There is a Silver Bullet - Use it Now!

Mark Perry, Executive Director, Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart - May 12, 2014

We all remember the Lone Ranger; He used silver bullets as a symbol of justice and the value of life.  He would be careful to use them but he had six in his gun.  After all the meetings I have participated in over the recent decades about our waters, many more people now are taking up our battle cry “Move Water South” which is the ‘Silver Bullet”.  At last the US Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, the US Department of Interior, US Congressmen, Florida Legislators and even the Governor are saying “Move Water South”.  The actual full statement they mean to say is “Stop the Discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move the Water South”.  This is the Silver Bullet we need and we should use it now.

Many times I have heard folks say “there is no silver bullet”, there is no ONE project, it is complicated or there are too many “constraints” in the way.  Also presented are several projects which are promoted to “save” the estuaries.  But something needs to be done now and not wait to see if collectively projects will make it all work 20-30 years down the road.  If tomorrow the flood gates from Lake Okeechobee going East and West to the coastal estuaries were closed permanently or a Federal Judge said no more discharges to the estuaries, then a Silver Bullet project would quickly appear.  It has also been said that if we just build all of the projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) over the next 30 years that will fix everything. We all know however that the one and only “silver bullet” project out of the 68 projects in CERP that is supposed to solve the Lake O discharges to the estuaries (known as the Lake Okeechobee ASR project) is more like a “copper bullet” and will melt in the barrel if we try to use it. 

It is not that complicated.  Here’s a summary of a Silver Bullet project;  Increase the Conveyance capacity of the 3 gate structures and canals going south from the Lake to equal or exceed that which is currently going East and West.  Buy an additional 50,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of the Lake and build the Storage capacity to handle the water from the Lake temporarily as it moves south.  Then slowly release the water into the A1, A2, Stormwater Treatment Areas and public lands south of the storage for water quality Treatment as it moves into the Water Conservation Areas and the Everglades. 

There several projects that are always discussed, underway or in process;  Restore the Kissimmee River, dispersed water storage, C44 project, IRL South, Picayune Strand, CEPP, C43. All will help get some of the water right in the local watersheds and attenuate some flows but none are the solution to our main problem for the estuaries.  We should continue projects that retain water upstream and treat pollution at the source but we still need a Silver Bullet, a project that will truly Stop the Discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move the Water South to restore the Everglades River of Grass.  Let’s get a Silver Bullet project underway now because the 2014 wet season is upon us and the estuaries can’t take another hit like the lost summer of 2013.

   

Time running out for vital waterway - NBC Nightly News Report 
Pollution is suffocating a critical habitat for fisheries and the most bio-diverse estuary in North America.  NBC's Mark Potter reports.
 

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