Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announced it will increase discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries starting this weekend.
The communities and businesses affected by the discharges remain under a state of emergency. Unfortunately, these damaging discharges will continue until long-term solutions are implemented.
To dramatically decrease these damaging discharges, a new place to send the water is needed. That place is a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), which has been part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan since its inception, and it is supported by more than 200 scientists and elected leaders, like Florida Senate President-designate Joe Negron.
The people opposing this plan are content with maintaining the status quo for their own interests. The status quo is unacceptable. The time to act is now. The EAA Reservoir will not only provide relief to the communities affected by the damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges, it will also provide benefits to the Everglades and Florida Bay during droughts.
The Everglades is a national treasure and an ecosystem like none other. It is the water supply for more than 1/3 of the state’s population. The Everglades is home to 77 endangered and threatened species, a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Preserve. It is also home to two national parks, a national preserve and a variety of other wildlife refuges and management areas. Further, it’s an economic engine – with every one dollar invested in Everglades restoration yielding a four-dollar return.
We must ensure that the next generation of Floridians inherit an ecosystem that is not frequently plagued by toxic algae in our water and on our beaches, but instead is a healthy and vibrant environment.