Water Quality Issues

Water Quality Issues

Positive bi-partisan actions by members of Florida's Congressional Delegation the last week of April should help provide some future relief to South Florida's estuaries and the Everglades.
 
Funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), part of the broader Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), was included in an important federal water bill which is starting to make its way to the appropriate congressional committees this week.  The 2016 Water Resources Development Act's (WRDA) first hearing was held on Thursday, April 28 in the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.  WRDA is the required federal funding mechanism for all water and infrastructure initiatives nationwide, and all projects are subject to the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
 

Read more: CCA Florida Applauds Progress On Water Actions

The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and its Florida chapter, CCA Florida (CCAFL) have been successful for many years in efforts to preserve our marine resources, fisheries, and coastal habitats for future generations.  These activities have also accrued to the benefit of recreational anglers in Florida and throughout the country. Massive fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee and run-off from the C-44 and C-43 basins into our estuaries have had a significant detrimental effect on the health of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuary systems, while the Everglades and Florida Bay were deprived of much needed fresh water from an earlier drought.  Consequently, south Florida estuaries, river systems, the Everglades, and Florida Bay have been stressed beyond imagination and the state’s marine resources, fisheries, and all related industries are suffering. The current management strategy of Florida’s fresh water resources and Lake Okeechobee has stubbornly persisted for far too long.

CCAFL acknowledges:

In the summer of 2015, south Florida experienced a severe drought which negatively impacted Florida Bay.

In the dry season of 2015-16, south Florida experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall throughout the system from the Kissimmee Valley to the Florida Keys.

There is no single cause or one easy fix to these problems.  All possible solutions are strategic, and will take several years.

Read more: Freshwater Discharge Management Issues

In response to the massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, the Brevard County Commission met yesterday to review a proposal to declare a state of emergency in the county. Frank Gidus, CCA Florida Director of Habitat and Environmental Restoration attended the meeting to determine where CCA can assist in the process.

The Brevard County commissioners rejected the resolution requesting Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in the county related to the recent Indian River Lagoon (IRL) fish kill and poor water quality. The commissioners instead passed a resolution (5 to 0) agreeing to send a letter to Rick Scott requesting that the following measures be taken:
  • asking for $200 million for muck dredging projects
  • assistance with streamlining the permitting process for muck removal and other environmental projects related to the IRL
  • waiver of the county's environmental permitting fees related to the IRL
  • the requirement for all septic tanks to be inspected when a house is sold, and
  • changing the existing law on the use of the county's tourist tax so that the county could increase the tax from the current 5 percent to 6 percent and use this money for IRL projects.

Read more: Brevard County requests money to help the IRL

CCA has been concerned about the declining health of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) for many years. We understand that the health of the IRL did not degrade overnight and likewise will not be fixed overnight. We have been in contact with state and local officials, scientists, and stakeholders and will continue the dialogue and discussions indefinitely. CCA's recently hired staff scientist was invited onto the Indian River Lagoon Council Restoration Team and is actively engaged in working towards solutions.
 
The recent fish kills in the IRL are reportedly the worst ever seen by fishermen and residents.  In response to this, Brevard County Commissioner Trudie Infantini has proposed two resolutions concerning the water quality in the IRL. This Tuesday the Brevard County commissioners will consider the two resolutions which include Resolution "C" - declaring the IRL the highest priority, second to none, in Brevard County, and Resolution "D" - asking Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in Brevard County.
 

Read more: Concern Over Heatlh of Indian River Lagoon

We know many of you are frustrated and angry over the current state of some key estuary systems in South Florida. We realize how important these waters are to the Everglades complex, to our marine environment, and to our fisheries. CCA has been engaged on these issues for some years now. After record rainfall during this year's dry season, it is easy to conclude nothing is being done and no solutions appear to be in sight. Our river systems are being stressed beyond imagination and, most important, our fishing is lousy, especially in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, in the southern reaches of the Indian River Lagoon, and in Pine Island Sound.
 
CCA has employed a strategic approach to these problems. These endeavors will not yield measureable progress with any immediacy, especially given the complexity of our water management problems. Still, we strive. It is virtually impossible to re-engineer over a century of infrastructure projects which were driven by the conventional wisdom of the day. The Herbert Hoover Dike is here to stay, Alligator Alley and Tamiami Trail are immovable, modern-day thoroughfares, and the natural Lake Hicpochee headwaters of the Caloosahatchee River are a thing of the past.
 

Read more: Florida’s Water Quality - An Important Message to All CCA Florida Members:

CCA Florida has been engaged in the discussions and efforts to find lasting solutions to the complex problems resulting from the heavy rain levels in South Florida, the discharges from Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corps, and impacts on the marine resources and wildlife, the potential for flooding, the risk of devastation on agricultural businesses, tourism, and a huge risk of major economic loss in Florida.
 
Last Friday, Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency in a three County area of South Florida and he warns of even greater destruction if the Hubert Hoover dam is not repaired. We will continue to be involved in the discussions regarding solutions at every level of local, regional, state and federal government. The emergency declaration is attached for your review and it demonstrates the serious nature and the complexity of this major and potential environmental and economic disaster if not corrected.

Read more: Governor Declares State of Emergency

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