Mark Perry, Executive Director, Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart
At the recent meeting of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, I gave them visual handouts and explained that the pollution discharges are having major impacts on the St. Lucie River Estuary, Indian River Lagoon and nearshore reef habitats. Salinities are at critically low levels for oyster reefs in the middle estuary, and the pollution is covering the seagrass beds in the outer estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
Several "protected" areas are now being impacted including two state aquatic preserves, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Essential Fish Habitat, Environmental Protection Agency 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 more than 4,000 species of plants and animals, including 36 endangered and threatened species. Where is the protection for these special “protected” areas? Where are the agencies who are charged with enforcing these protections?
We must demand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District stop all pollution discharges from the major drainage canals of C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44 (which includes the Lake Okeechobee pollution discharges) IMMEDIATELY. Lake Okeechobee discharges are the largest single freshwater source to the St. Lucie Estuary, more than twice the volume of any other sub-basin in the St. Lucie Estuary watershed.
We Must Stop the Lake Okeechobee Discharges and Demand Moving the Water South to Restore the River of Grass.