Who should get the dirty water?

Editorial by The Daily Sun, Aug 8, 2021 Top of Form

OUR POSITION: We support the Charlotte County commissioners’ efforts to tweak the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan on where to send Lake Okeechobee’s runoff.

We don’t want Lake Okeechobee’s toxic water. That’s a message we need to make clear.

It wasn’t that long ago, 2017 to be exact, that an environmental disaster wreaked havoc on Southwest Florida.

Blue-green algae, brought down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee, killed thousands, maybe millions, of fish along the Gulf Coast and in area canals and poured into the Gulf to mix with red tide. The result was an explosion of red tide that lingered for weeks, forcing waterfront businesses to close and sparking nationwide news reports that damaged Southwest Florida tourism numbers.

The catastrophic event had enough of an impact to cause Gov. Ron DeSantis, when elected in 2018, to pledge funds to study red tide and to build a reservoir to hold Lake Okeechobee runoff in hopes of preventing another blue-green algae attack on our coastlines.

That was then. This is now and now has the Army Corps of Engineers considering where the next overflow of blue-green algae from the huge Florida lake should go. With the reservoir not quite complete — and likely unable to hold all the overflow from Lake Okeechobee — the Corps has to decide where to send the water.

Right now, they’re looking to send a majority of it to the Gulf Coast. Not the East Coast, where more well-heeled residents have protested the idea.

We need to nip that plan in the bud. We don’t want the stinking water, and we certainly are no better prepared to see another outbreak of algae and red tide than our East Coast brethren.

The solution is really simple. We need to send most of the runoff into the Everglades. Now that five miles of the old U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) road bed has been leveled, the opportunity to funnel more of Lake Okeechobee’s nasty water into the Everglades is a reality. The project could open the flow of 220 billion gallons of freshwater into the Northeast Shark River Slough each year.

Proponents of sending the water into the Everglades are up against the Sugar industry in trying to convince the Corps and South Florida Water Management District to alter the “CC” plan they are leaning toward.

That plan is the one Charlotte County commissioners want to fight because it will bring more of the toxic runoff from the lake down the Caloosahatchee and that is not good for our area.

Charlotte County’s new Water Quality Manager Brandon Moody, reported to commissioners recently about the impacts of sending more water our way than to the East Coast or the Everglades. The Caloosahatchee empties into the Gulf and Pine Island Sound, just south of Charlotte Harbor. Some of that water from the river, according to Moody and a story in The Daily Sun, reach the eastern wall of Charlotte Harbor where sea grasses have been devastated in recent years.

Those in favor of sending more water to the Everglades apparently include U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, of Port St. Lucie, where much of the water sent to the East Coast would go. He said sending water South would be best for both the East and West coasts.

As the Corps and the South Florida Water Management District refine their plan, it is imperative that we give input. Let them know we don’t want dirty Lake Okeechobee water here by emailing the Corps at LakeOComments@usace.army.mil.

 Image Credits: Image shows blue-green algae buildup around the Calusa Waterkeeper. (Credit: WINK News/FILE)