The moment we hoped would not come this year has arrived. With just days left in the typical rainy season, Floridians are bracing for damage from Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced the start of polluted, Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries as an effort to stem the rapid rate of lake level rise.
At 16.21 feet, the Corps claims it can no longer comfortably hold back releases without undue stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. Just 19 days before the general election, it’s a painful reminder that our water management system fails to protect Florida’s precious estuaries, and the operational rules that govern releases of water do not yet account for the dangers associated with cyanobacterial exposure.
For so many Florida residents, this moment may seem hopeless. Even with increased awareness about the short- and long-term risks to public health from harmful algal blooms, and even with bipartisan commitment to end the status quo, the northern estuaries are still the dumping grounds for a lake that has historically been managed largely for the benefit of one wealthy and politically influential industry.
Floridians join the rest of the world in what has already been an unprecedented year. We have not been spared the stress or the economic impacts of a global pandemic. And though we’ve enjoyed nearly two years free from the devastation that was the 2018 Summer of Slime, the effects linger and many marine businesses are still struggling to overcome environmental decline and public perceptions that drive sea life away and have made visitors wary. With all that in mind, we know one thing for certain: we can’t afford another crisis.
So what can you do?
Vote. More specifically, Vote Water.
The single most powerful thing that you can do to help bring Florida’s water back from the brink of collapse is to bring all your anger, your fear, your passion, and your commitment to clean water to the ballot box.
This year’s VoteWater campaign was carried out by the dedicated efforts of a group of nonpartisan, volunteer county captains located around the state. Broken down into water management districts, the county captains are business leaders, educators, fishing guides, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. Many of them are names you might already recognize, Floridians who have been fighting for better water management in their local communities for decades. Their collaborative efforts have helped to identify, research, communicate with, educate, and ultimately rate candidates on their ability to best address and advocate for water issues in Florida. The results of their hard work is the 2020 Clean-Water Voter Guides, available now at VoteWater.org. VoteWater county captains did the hard work for you. Now it’s up to you to vote clean-water candidates into office.
Our waters may be in for some dark days ahead with the start of the most recent discharges, but the last two years have given us hope for what’s possible. We have to make sure the good fight continues, by supporting the champions that have already stepped up, and by ensuring new ones are in a position to keep the needle moving forward.
Florida voters hold the key.