On June 3rd, as part of the Q&A on Florida’s polluted waterways and Lake O’ discharges, I shared with you the next critical decision that’d be made for the future of Florida’s waterways. The Army Corps of Engineers was considering five different plans for handling future discharges from Lake Okeechobee after repeated demands from the state and pressure from federal officials, namely Congressman Brian Mast. According to Mast, the plans would do the following:
- AA: Sends 135,000 acrefeet per year south
- BB: Sends 92,000 acrefeet per year south
- CC: Sends 162,000 acrefeet per year south
- DD: Sends 90,000 acrefeet per year south
- EE: Unknown
None of the plans would completely end east-west discharges, though they could reduce them by up to 95% in time. The hope is that the eventual construction of the EAA reservoir, and possibly a northern one, would be able to account for the remaining excess water in the Lake eventually ending the discharges. With plan “CC” sending the most water south through the Everglades, Mast supported that plan and advocated for its acceptance. The CC plan was also backed by Governor DeSantis, while Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried notably backed the “BB” plan which was backed by the Sugar industry. Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers adopted the CC plan. So, what does that mean going forward?
A minimum of a 66% reduction in discharges into Florida’s eastern waterways for a minimum of ten years. This is especially critical given the record manatee deaths in 2021 resulting from starvation as a result of seagrass having been killed off due to years of discharges out of Lake O’. Now, next up is the construction of the EAA Southern Reservoir from the lake. Also, electing an Agriculture Commissioner who will comply with the Clean Water Ways Act and who will prioritize our waterways above the interests of agricultural companies. And, the construction of a northern reservoir above Lake O’.
The Everglades Restoration Project remains on track, in fact, its progress is what enabled the "CC" plan as an option. After $2 billion in funding from the state, Governor DeSantis has called on the Biden administration to add $725 million to aid our efforts. Regarding Florida’s waterways, it’s easy to see how we got here. It’s easy to see who’s an obstacle to progress. Finally, it’s also possible to see a way to turn this around. It’s a matter of making it happen and we’ll all play a role in the outcome one way or another. Kudos to Brian Mast who’s been working on this since his first day in office.