Please find Friends of the Everglades’ attached line-by-line feedback pertaining to the RECOVER Northern Estuaries Salinity Envelope Performance Metrics. We thank the Army Corps of Engineers and the whole RECOVER team for its work on these draft metrics, which are an improvement over the 2007 targets. That said, we see room for improvement if the RECOVER metrics are to stand as a true measure of CERP’s ability to restore, preserve and protect the South Florida ecosystem while balancing other water-related needs.
First and foremost, Friends of the Everglades strongly opposes including any Lake Okeechobee Regulatory Releases in “Optimum” performance metrics for the St. Lucie Estuary. The St. Lucie Estuary requires ZERO cubic feet of water from Lake Okeechobee; in fact, the estuary is regularly harmed by nutrients, sediment and Harmful Algal Blooms carried from Lake Okeechobee via regulatory releases. Although we recognize RECOVER’s focus is on salinity, we must see the forest for the trees and recognize that any volume of Lake Okeechobee water included in the “Optimum” flow envelope to the St. Lucie Estuary will defy the definition of “Optimum.”
Second, it’s impossible to provide a true measure of ecological health in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries without addressing nutrient pollution and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Cyanobacteria blooms along both estuaries have threatened human health and ecological conditions, and they are fueled by nutrient pollution. A growing body of scientific research links toxins from cyanobacteria to neurological diseases including ALS. Oyster and sea grasses are important indicator species — but we must not be so myopic in our view that we omit consideration for human impacts.
We thank you for allowing public input on these important performance metrics and look forward to seeing an improved final report.
Executive Director, Friends of the Everglades