Board of Directors Passes Three New Resolutions
Florida Oceanographic’s Board of Directors recently passed three separate resolutions concerning environmental problems facing our local estuaries and wetlands. The positions include support for an expeditious completion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and specifically the Everglades Agricultural Storage Reservoir, the incorporation of a “No Discharge” option into the final Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), and that the federal government and the State of Florida rescind the transfer of the wetland permitting process that recently moved from the U.S. EPA to the State.
Incorporating “No Discharges” into LOSOM
There is no question that the “no discharge” option identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a possible option in the LOSOM plan for the future is best for the St. Lucie Estuary. The St. Lucie River estuary was never naturally connected to Lake Okeechobee and receives no benefit from any Lake discharges. Lake discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary bring too much fresh water that kills life in the estuary and also brings pollution including toxic algae blooms. The quantity of water discharged does not make a measureable difference to the level of Lake Okeechobee, and it is better to send water south from the Lake to the Everglades and Florida Bay which actually need and benefit from fresh water flows. There are manifold economic arguments that show the value both to this community and the entire state in favor of the “no discharge” option to the St. Lucie Estuary.
Expediting the EAA Storage Reservoir Project
Florida Oceanographic supports the expeditious completion of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir that is a part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This component is critical to the ability to send Lake Okeechobee water releases to the Everglades and Florida Bay instead of to the coastal estuaries. The US Army Corps of Engineers began water releases from Lake Okeechobee on March 6th of this year. Over 45 billion gallons of fresh water have been discharged from the Lake to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee Estuary. The EAA Project would provide capacity to move the water south so it did not need to be released to the estuaries.
EPA Clean Water Act – Section 404
Florida Oceanographic is opposed to wetland permitting being transferred from the Environmental Protection Agency to the State of Florida. We believe that federal input and oversight is critical for wetland protection and it should not be left solely to the state’s protection. An additional area of concern is that the process that was used to make this change did not follow standard procedures or receive appropriate public review and input. Wetland permitting is critical to environmental health of all wetlands as it directly correlates to the preservation of crucial ecosystems that support life.