We've suspected this all along. Through independent scientific research, corroborative evidence demonstrates that excess freshwater discharges laden with nutrients act as a catalyst for the proliferation.
Ray Judah
Lee County Commissioner
District 3
News Archive


Governor Charlie Crist signs NEEPA billOn Thursday, June 28, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed the Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Act (NEEPA) as an amendment to and expansion of the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act of 2000 (LOPA). The new landmark legislation defines the "Northern Everglades" as including Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, and the St. Lucie River Watersheds and recognizes that water quality and quantity problems exist and are getting worse within the lake and two river watersheds. The Act confers equal status and protection to the rivers and estuaries, which have been dumping grounds for polluted lake waters.

Credit for the passage of the landmark legislation goes to Lee County Commissioners, the Sanibel City Council and others, including hundreds of citizens and their organizations on both coasts. But the Estuary Protection provisions of the Act would not have come to fruition without the leadership of the Commissioners and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. Virtually all of the provisions were drafted and lobbied by a team of leaders from these groups.

Passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature on May 2, 2007, the new law expands LOPA to safeguard and restore the entire northern Everglades system, including the Lake Okeechobee watershed as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. Over the next two years, the law calls for the development of far-reaching plans to protect and improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water north of Lake Okeechobee. These plans will augment and enhance restoration currently underway in the remnant Everglades south of the lake.

In addition, the Estuary Protection Program for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Watersheds reduces pollution that flows into the rivers, restores their natural hydrology, and ensures compliance with applicable water quality standards. Plus, the new law requires the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to develop a detailed technical plan that addresses the quality and quantity of discharges into and from Lake Okeechobee by February 1, 2008.

The law extends the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund for 10 years through 2020 and expands its purpose. Florida's 2007-08 budget, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Crist, includes $200 million for the restoration and protection of the River of Grass, allocating $100 million for Everglades restoration, $54 million for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee, as well as $40 million to protect the health of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

The estuary protection initiative began as a line item in last year's appropriations bill placed by Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, to establish funding for an exploratory task force charged with finding ways to improve water quality in the estuaries. Although former Governor Jeb Bush vetoed the line item, the SFWMD stepped up to fund it. As a result, the Caloosahatchee/St. Lucie Rivers Corridor Commission was created with representatives from businesses, agricultural interests and government entities on the east and west coasts of the state. After some study, the Commission subsequently recommended expanding Lake Okeechobee protections to the estuaries; and legislators later expanded the protections even more to add the Kissimmee River watershed to create the Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Act signed by Governer Crist. Click here to read the new law.

Now, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and others who helped create this new legislation turn their attention to ensuring comprehensive and expedited implementation of the Estuary Protection provisions of the law. To that end, Lee County recently engaged the SFWMD and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the development of an intergovernmental memorandum of agreement concerning implementation. Part of the push for implementation will be the establishment of a dedicated funding source, which currently does not exist.

Stories From Your Neighbors

One way to truly understand the impact that freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee are having on Lee County is to hear your neighbors’ experiences. Those who live on or near the Caloosahatchee River are really seeing the effects first-hand. Here are their stories.

Read Local Stories

Tell Us Your Story

To tell us your tale, email us at mywaterstory@leegov.com. And thanks for taking time to help us better understand the scope of what’s happening to us all.

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Related Links

South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:
http://www.sfrestore.org

South Florida Water Management District:
http://www.sfwmd.gov

More Links

Glossary

Phosphorus [P]:
An element or nutrient required for energy production in living organisms; distributed into the environment mostly as phosphates by agricultural runoff and life cycles; frequently the limiting factor for growth of microbes and plants.

Blue-Green Algae:
A type of algae natural to our area that blooms in the climatic and nutrient conditions it finds favorable.

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