The rains of 2013 are on track to set wet season records and have broken the string of drought years Florida has suffered since 2007.
SCCF is monitoring and tracking water conditions with our west coast partners, providing information about what is happening to our river, estuary and coastal waters. We hope to educate and empower water managers and elected officials to make changes to operations and infrastructure to improve conditions in the Caloosahatchee.
We need your help now to speak up for the health of our natural communities, our local economy and our quality of life. Here is a synopsis of what's happening, why it's happening and what we can each do to change the current course. We hope you will help us and take action.
Courtesy of RUSTY FARST
This is a before-and-after combined with the 2013 photo of San Carlos Bay looking north toward the Sanibel Causeway in April 2010, when the water was clear.
What's going on with our water
A wet spring and very wet early summer have delivered more rain than the greater Everglades ecosystem, that stretches from Orlando to Florida Bay, Fort Myers to Stuart, can hold. So a lot of fresh water is running into the Kissimmee River and then into Lake Okeechobee, where water levels are high and endangering the Dike around the lake. The excess water, no longer able to flow south because of sugarcane and crops growing in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area), is shunted west to the Caloosahatchee estuary and east to the St. Lucie estuary.
The impact is the same on both coasts - lethal levels of freshwater are killing and displacing marine life including oysters and seagrass that cannot move out of the way. Fish and shellfish nursery also is lost, washed out into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
This excess fresh water is running off the land so fast it carries tannins from plants and other organic material with it, causing the unusually dark water. Flood control projects that began in the 1940s were designed to drain water off the land to accommodate growth and development in south Florida. So the high rainfall this year has saturated the land with water, raised water levels in Lake Okeechobee and necessitated water releases to lower the lake.
The excess water is coming from both the Caloosahatchee watershed in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties as well as from Lake O releases. The solutions are twofold: increase storage throughout the system and redirect water to more historic flow patterns.
Drainage projects created 70 years ago for flood control no longer serve our state or community interests or economies. Short term and long term solutions are needed at both the Federal and State levels to change the outcomes and prevent devastation of our marine life, beaches, local economies and quality of life. This is our legacy, this is our heritage to next generations. Changes are needed NOW. Take action!
Demand SFWMD deliver on promises
Demand that the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) implement planned storage projects and update their operations. Since 2005 when the SFWMD promised new storage projects to prevent the disaster of 2004-05, there is not one project constructed or operational in the Caloosahatchee watershed. Please email the SFWMD Governing Board and interim executive director Ernie Barnett, Governor Rick Scott, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Senator Benacquisto and Rep. Matt Caldwell (email info below).
Explain that too much water is coming from both the Caloosahatchee watershed and Lake O.
Demand that storage projects in planning over the past seven years be operational by next year's wet season in the Caloosahatchee and Kissimmee watersheds to capture, store and treat water to help reduce high flows.
Request that the District revise operational schedules to change the timing and increase storage in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and watershed; increase water held in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA); and stop all discharge from the EAA into Lake O.
Follow Senator Negron's senate committee
The first hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee basin is Aug. 22 from 1-9 p.m. in Stuart at the Charles and Rae Kane Center, 900 SE Salermo Road, Stuart, FlL 24997; telephone 772-223-7800.
Please attend if you can and insist that the Caloosahatchee be included in the scope of the hearings, and press for the implementation of federal and state solutions to these issues.
SCCF will be attending U.S. Representative Trey Radel's listening session on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Edison College to tell him that we need the U.S. House to pass a WRDA bill. A Water Resources Development Act bill is the only way to get water projects approved for construction and funding across the nation. It has been six years since the last WRDA and it is needed to authorize long term storage projects to help reduce high flow conditions.
Two needed projects are the C43 reservoir for the Caloosahatchee and Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), to once again flow water south to the Everglades. You can also help by writing to Representatives Trey Radel and Thomas Rooney.
How you can help.
Call, write or email! Emails can be found at www.sccf.org on the "Current Issues" green box on the right, under "Government Contact Emails." You can also learn more about the connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee, and check the weekly Caloosahatchee Condition Reports prepared by the west coast partners.
Thanks for stepping up and speaking out. Together we can change the way it's always been done!
Urge U.S. House to pass WRDA