From the desk of our Executive Director, Eve Samples, your Voice of the Everglades update:

It’s been just over a month since the Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates from Lake Okeechobee, causing polluted water to foul the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and the Lake Worth Lagoon. As a result, water quality and salinity levels have plummeted in these fragile estuaries. Water that should be clear now has the murky hue of Yoohoo.  

It’s an ugly scene — but the most dangerous conditions still lie ahead of us. About 15% of Lake O is showing signs of an algae bloom, mostly along the western and northern shore. As the weather heats up, that bloom will expand and intensify, raising the very real threat of toxic algae along the coasts this summer. 

Some folks are describing this manmade crisis as a “necessary evil,” but we reject that fatalistic attitude. This isn’t a necessary evil. It’s a rigged system designed to provide near-perfect irrigation and drainage to industrial sugarcane growers south of Lake O.

It’s a choice made by the South Florida Water Management District, the Army Corps and Florida lawmakers — but there is a near-term solution. Instead of sending untreated Lake O water to the estuaries, water managers should send it south to about 60,000 acres of taxpayer-funded marshes known as Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs). Under the status quo, Big Sugar’s polluted runoff uses about 90% of the capacity in these STAs, leaving only 10% for Lake O water to move south. It’s time for Big Sugar to clean up its own mess, on its own land.

We’re working every day for an end to this rigged system. Thank you for standing with us.