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.

CCAFL states the following for CCAFL members:

CCAFL supports and recommends accelerating federal authorization, funding, and completion of existing CEPP and CERP projects designed specifically to provide relief to the Everglades, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee basins, Florida Bay, and the Indian River Lagoon.  CCAFL supports and recommends the Next Steps Project raising the additional 2.6 miles of the Tamiami Trail.  Funding must be included in the upcoming Water Resources Development Act.

CCAFL supports and recommends a focused review and updating of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Integrated Delivery Schedule to expedite projects currently ready for construction and those near-term projects designed to benefit water quality and management.

CCAFL urges Everglades National Park managers to more effectively collaborate with the state of Florida to manage water levels in the Park which affect the biological diversity of water dependent species, including those species and habitats of Florida Bay.

CCAFL actively supported the passage of Amendment One as a strategic funding device for Everglades and estuary restoration projects.  CCAFL also supported Legacy Florida legislation in this year’s Florida legislative session, and worked to insure proposed Legacy Florida funding was not a victim of a line-item veto.  While this year’s funding of $200 million is a good start, it is not enough.  CCAFL will urge and support continued and escalated funding from Amendment One funds in future legislative sessions to ensure the appropriate use of Amendment One funds for the duration of its authority.

CCAFL supports the development of water storage and treatment north, south, east, and west of Lake Okeechobee to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries and provide fresh water flow to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Consistent with CCAFL’s general support to send more water south from Lake Okeechobee and deliver it to the Everglades and Florida Bay, CCAFL supports a recently-introduced bill by Congressman Curt Clawson (FL-19, Bonita Springs) to purchase such lands to provide additional water storage, treatment, and flow.  

CCAFL is currently planning habitat restoration activities in the affected estuaries and will begin as soon as conditions improve.  Many projects are ‘shovel-ready’.  As examples, CCAFL recently partnered with the Florida Oceanographic Society to help finance a project in the Indian River in Stuart and stands ready to fund yet another oyster reef restoration in San Carlos Bay.

CCAFL supports septic tank eradication in the Keys and in other coastal areas which drain into Florida estuaries, bays, and drainage basins, including the watershed feeding the Indian River Lagoon.  CCAFL urges local elected officials to control unabated and untreated storm-water discharges into estuaries, bays, and riverine systems, provided scientific studies conclude septic leaching and storm-water mismanagement is playing a material role in the degradation of Florida waters.  Sadly, the deleterious effects of these practices have recently manifested themselves in a massive fish kill in parts of the central Indian River Lagoon system.

CCAFL acknowledges the water management complications involved with certain endangered species in south Florida, including one unique type of fish, and the need to protect these animals to the extent they and their breeding grounds and waters are impacted with water management decisions.

CCAFL continues to place the highest priority on water quality problems throughout the state in its advocacy efforts.  These efforts should complement a long list of CCAFL’s fisheries management activities.

CCAFL will continue to communicate to its members all of its activities around these vitally important issues.  On a monthly basis, CCAFL will provide details about regional components which have led to the above recommendations, and will recommend actions for our members to advance projects which should improve Florida’s water management practices.