May 10th, 2021
For most of its 28-year existence, The Everglades Foundation has advocated a single, four-word mantra: “Send the water south!” Today, during a press conference after touring Lake Okeechobee, Governor Ron DeSantis reaffirmed the organization’s longstanding goal of reducing harmful discharges to our estuaries and sending water south to the thirsty Everglades.
“As we go forward to develop a new operating manual for the Lake we want it to be done in a way that is going to put a premium on reducing or eliminating harmful discharges during the wet season,” said Governor DeSantis during the conference. “Take advantage of sending the water out during the dry season, send the water to places that want the water, and keep the lake level lower so that you have the ability to absorb in the rainy season without doing these harmful discharges.”
That has been the argument advanced by the Foundation’s scientists in countless meetings in Tallahassee and Washington over the years, including in the organization’s testimony last September in the Congressional Hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment – the same proceeding when U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-Fla-18th) made known his firm stance in support of the goal.
“Moving more water south during the dry season will help meet the water needs of South Florida’s growing population and provide much-needed freshwater for the Everglades and Florida Bay,” The Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said. “Sending water south from Lake Okeechobee will also have a profound effect on reducing the releases of harmful algal blooms to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. We commend Governor DeSantis for his leadership in ensuring water fairness for all of South Florida’s water needs and urge the Corps to adopt a more equitable schedule that meets the growing needs of Florida’s 21st century economy.
Today’s request to promote augmented environmentally beneficial releases that drive lake levels lower during the dry season comes at a crucial time as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is getting ready to revise the operating manual that dictates how Lake Okeechobee is managed.
The Governor also called for giving “enhanced operational flexibility” to water managers to enable them to prevent harmful discharges by holding water in the lake whenever harmful algal blooms develop.
Recent modifications to the Herbert Hoover Dike have given flood control managers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility in their management of Lake Okeechobee, and in July, the Corps is expected to release proposed revisions to its Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).