Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 021916 Contents 15
THE RIVER - FEBRUARY 19, 2016
Governor Orders Lake
Okeechobee Flows Directed South
by Jeff Lysiak
As a result of a historic emergency meeting of a half dozen mayors repre-
senting Lee County communities distressed over the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers decision to pump water from Lake Okeechobee into the
Caloosahatchee last week, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday requested that the Army
Corps "take immediate action" to relieve the flooding of the Everglades Water
In a letter dated February 11 to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army
for Civil Works, Gov. Scott requested that the Army Corps raise the level of the L-29
canal to 8.5 feet in order for "substantial volumes of water" to be moved from Water
Conservation Area 3 to the Everglades National Park through Shark River Slough.
"Moving water south out of the water conservation areas will prevent the die-off of
wildlife whose habitat is currently flooded due to the heavy rainfall and also allow us to
move more water from Lake Okeechobee south, relieving pressure from discharges to
the estuaries," Gov. Scott's letter reads, in part. "We have communicated with stake-
holders along Tamiami Trail, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Everglades National
Park, the South Florida Water Management District, the Miccosukee Tribe and many
others. They are supportive of this action."
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane reacted positively to the news of Gov. Scott's action.
"We applaud Gov. Scott's request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for imme-
diate action," Ruane said. "The solutions we are pursuing require action by all levels of
government, local, state and federal. The engagement by Gov. Scott is a positive step
On February 10, Ruane -- along with Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson, Cape
Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki, Estero Mayor Nick Batos, Fort Myers Mayor Randy
Henderson and Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda -- gathered at Bonita
Springs' City Council chambers for an emergency session. Their discussion focused
on both immediate and long-term requests of the governing agencies with jurisdic-
tion over Lake Okeechobee, including the Army Corps and the South Florida Water
Management District, as well as funding requests for relief efforts at the state and
federal levels for CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Project), EAA (Everglades
Agricultural Area) and watershed storage projects.
"It is unconscionable that back pumping into Lake O for any reason would be per-
mitted while devastating massive releases are being justified by the current level of the
water in the lake," Ruane explained prior to the meeting. "We demand all back pump-
ing into the lake be immediately stopped."
The state's Department of Environmental Protection and the state Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission also issued orders late last week which would "deviate
from permitted water management practices" and allow the Army Corps to grant
Gov. Scott's request. The move would also improve salinity conditions in Florida Bay,
according to a resolution issued by FWC.
As a result of record amounts of rainfall throughout the new year, Lake
Okeechobee has risen to nearly 16 feet. Fears of flooding and/or failure of the lake's
protective levees triggered the Army Corps decision to open the dikes to allow maxi-
mum amounts of water -- estimated at more than 3.5 billion gallons per day -- to flow
out of the lake and into the Caloosahatchee to the west. Approximately 2 million gal-
lons of lake water per day was being released to the east, into the St. Lucie River.
On Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a resolu-
tion allowing the Army Corps to move more water south through Shark River Slough
to ease the effects of flooding in Southwest Florida.
"Discharges to the estuaries are contributing to impacts to the natural resources
of those estuarine ecosystems. Those estuaries provide fishing, boating, sightseeing,
seafood harvesting and other important tourism-related economic benefits," the FWC
document states. "Immediate action is necessary to deviate from permitted water man-
agement practices in order to move significant volumes of flood water out of the Water
Conservation Areas through Shark River Slough, and subsequently provide opportuni-
ties to move more water south out of Lake Okeechobee, relieving pressure on the
Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries."
On February 12, Ruane thanked the district for taking action on the water releases.
"We commend the South Florida Water Management District for ceasing the 'back
pumping' into Lake Okeechobee," he added. "Our efforts to improve communications
and work together towards solutions is our collective top priority and focus at this time.
We appreciate the efforts of our residents who responded to the call to cease the back
pumping. We work best when we speak with one voice."
The six Lee County mayors plan on conducting public meetings every month to
discuss both long- and short-term solutions to resolving South Florida's ongoing water
Dark water making its way up the beach along West Gulf Drive Sunday February 14
photo by Jim Anderson
Captain Bubby's IsLAND Tours
has partnered with The Tall Ship
Lynx to offer a sailing experi-
ence that is enjoyable, informative and
gives back to the local community.
From March 1 to 6, cruise with Captain
Bubby, a Florida Master Naturalist,
aboard The Lynx and experience area
sights and sounds from the deck of
this 1812 replica of a privateer. He
will share his knowledge of the area's
wildlife, plants and history including the
background of the local shrimping indus-
try. Experience the life of a 19th centu-
ry sailor for two and a half hours as you
sail the waters between Estero Island
and Sanibel. Partial proceeds will benefit
Fort Myers Beach Lions Foundation,
where 100 percent of earnings go back
into the community.
Reservations are required; call 245-
7383 or visit CaptainBubbys.com for
more information or to make reserva-
tions. A minimum of 12 passengers must
be booked for a sailing to occur. Space
is limited to 40 guests. Groups are wel-
come. Cost: $75 per guest*. Gratuities
to guides and crew are not included.
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-- Chef/Owner AJ Black
751 Tarpon Bay Road
Sanibel Island, FL
www.iltesoro.net • 239-395-4022
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IL TESORO RISTORANTE
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