It all started with man’s desire to “Drain the Swamp.” Those pesky everglades were no good for development or agriculture. Who cares about a bunch of mosquitoes and alligators?
So we drained the damn swamp. We built a huge dam below Lake Okeechobee. We created land for developers. We created land for sugar cane. We decided to subsidize the sugar companies to keep them in business. The sugar interests got filthy rich. Now they send their filthy water to both coasts of Florida in an effort to kill new ecosystems. Hey, we killed the Glades, why not kill SW Florida and the Treasure Coast?
Florida has received too much rain this year. The lake is holding too much water. We don’t let that water flow through the river of grass as God intended though. We hold it back. When we have too much, we discharge it into the Caloosahactee and St. Lucie Rivers. The lake water is ugly and dangerous. It’s full of fertilizer and nutrients and just plain muck. The excess nutrients cause algae blooms to explode. The waters around Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel are dead-zones now. There’s no oxygen. There’s Red Tide. There’s mud.
Below picture from under the Matanzas Bridge at Fort Myers Beach. It’s one of the places we frequent in our boat. It used to have nice clear, even blue, water.
Now look at Sanibel. The dark water meets the Gulf:
Over on the east coast:
Makes you want to book your vacation now doesn’t it?
I despise getting into politics, but this is a political matter. You see, the citizens of Florida voted overwhelmingly for something called Amendment 1. 75% of voters passed something they thought would go a long way to solving this very problem, but it hasn’t happened. For more info on Amendment 1 see here:
Instead, the Florida legislature has gone against the will of the people to use the earmarked money for other purposes, or to simply ignore the mandate to purchase land below the dam.
Record rains have not made the situation better as the lake level is rising at the same time the state was back-pumping farm water into Okeechobee.
With levels around 17 feet above sea level, well over the Army Corps mandated maximum of 15.5 feet above sea level, the only way to quickly drain the lake is to send billions of gallons of dirty water down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Measurements taken by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation show more than 12,000 cubic feet per second flowing through the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, an Army Corps structure that holds back lake waters. Discharges begin harming the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary when levels reach 2,800 cubic feet per second. That translates into billions of gallons, and it’s still coming. More rain, more releases, more devastation to coastal estuaries.
In the interest of time and space. I’ll include a petition addressed to the Governor.
And so that you understand it’s not just a state problem, but also a federal one. Here’s the contact information for the point person at the Army Corps of Engineers:
Deputy District Commander for South Florida
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
South Florida Restoration Program Office
1400 Centrepark Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33401-7402