Freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers have caused commotion in the past, but it seems that the residents on the banks are concerned.
Due to four days of back pumping of Lake O water by the South Florida Water Management District, nutrient-laden water has clouded up water off the coasts of Southwest Florida, causing disturbances in the natural ecosystem. These changes in water quality are dangerous to the delicate balance that is Florida wildlife, but these releases have also affected tourism in our area. The Army Corps of Engineers didn’t think to announce these releases until roughly a day after they started.
However, Florida Governor Rick Scott and other state entities are particularly concerned with losing tourism money and not so concerned with what this could mean for our beaches, river systems and wildlife. The idea that these systems should be saved should not be a second contender to petty cash flow.
Naturally, South Florida’s natural water flow springs from the Kissimmee River into Lake O and straight to the Everglades through estuaries, swamplands and groundwater. Beginning in the 19th century, when people moved down through Florida, man has drained swamplands for agriculture and was even encouraged to do so through federal law. As population grew, more and more people used the agricultural plains below Lake O and needed more land than water, so the Caloosahatchee River was dug out to link up with Lake O, effectively draining the lake and causing water flow to the Everglades to dry up.
Fast forward to today, and billions of dollars are being spent within the next decade, according to the SFWMD, to naturalize and restore the historic flow to the Everglades and other Florida natural systems. When man messes with water systems as big as Lake O, these are the prices we look forward to paying.
Southwest Florida has a unique ecosystem, and some nature here can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. It’s important to preserve our beaches and waterways simply to save the environment and not focus on tourism money. If money is the main concern in our state, it’s not long before we tamper with more water systems and ruin our ecology just to gain a profit for the state.