Monthly News & Updates

February/March 2024

It's been an incredibly busy month for our Southwest Florida waterways and for us here at Calusa Waterkeeper! In case you didn't catch it on our incredibly active social media platforms, Lake Okeechobee harmful discharges have resumed releasing billions of gallons of polluted water into the Caloosahatchee River. There have also been some interesting developments regarding state wetland permitting and other legislative bills. Internally, we have rolled out our brand-new Ranger Training Curriculum, onboarded our new Executive Director, and preparing for our annual meeting, fundraiser and awards luncheon scheduled for Sunday, March 24, from 2 to 5pm. Please read on to learn more.

Calusa Waterkeeper

Capt. Codty Pierce

An afternoon of insight, inspiration & community

Join us on Sunday, March 24th for the Calusa Waterkeeper Annual Meeting, Fundraiser and Awards Luncheon at the Westin Cape Coral Resort.

Featuring our very own Calusa Waterkeeper Capt. Codty Pierce and Guest Speaker Capt. Benny Blanco, an awarding-winning TV Host, conservationist and fishing guide.

Our Master of Ceremonies is Fox4 Meteorologist Andrew ShipleyJoseph Bonasia will give us an update on the Right to Clean Water initiative, and we'll introduce our new Executive Director!

Table sponsors and guests will enjoy:

  • Lunch & Drinks
  • Exclusive Auction Items
  • Pre-event meet and greet with our Captains for VIP ticket holders and sponsors

Presented by  Manatee & Eco River Tours

Get Tickets

Lake Okeechobee Discharges: Our Perspective

The Army Corps of Engineers began discharging large volumes of water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers on February 17. We have been participating in their "periodic scientist calls" and the data from those meetings indicate this will be the case at least throughout the month of March. The pictures speak for themselves on how this impacts our area, but here are some associated numbers.

The next two weeks they have scheduled discharges from the Lake to be at around 5,200 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) to the upper Caloosahatchee. 5,200 CFS = 3.36 Billion gallons per day. At times, the rates will be higher.

Furthermore, these are the flow numbers from the Lake into the upper Caloosahatchee at the Julian Keen Jr. Lock (S77) in Moore Haven. We typically receive additional water on top of that downstream at Franklin Locks (S79).

Keep in mind: Anything over 2,600 CFS at Franklin Locks is considered a harmful discharge for the Caloosahatchee estuary.

Why it matters: This water is high in nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants. Besides greatly increasing the potential of harmful algal blooms (fueling cyanobacteria and red tide), the discharges also drive down the salinity in the river, stressing oyster beds and many other species in the estuary.

This year's need to perform harmful discharges is due to a wetter than average dry season. The El Nino pattern was widely forecasted, so it is fair to question why the Army Corps chose to enter this calendar year with the Lake at its highest level in recent history.

These harmful discharges highlight how far we have yet to go as a state to affect any meaningful restoration progress for the Caloosahatchee. The C43 and EAA reservoir projects will help reduce damaging discharges, but are still years away from coming online. Furthermore, the science shows the plans to be inadequate in both storage and treatment and will not eliminate the need for discharges to our watershed.

For these reasons, Calusa Waterkeeper has always been wary of anyone asserting that Everglades restoration (CERP) will be a full solution to our SWFL's water quality issues. This is also why we have taken a more holistic approach of advocating to improve state policies to stop pollution at their sources—such as reforming the Basin Management Action Plans which are failing to restore nutrient impairments across the state.

Federal Court Strikes Down EPA Approval of Florida Wetlands Program

A district court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acted illegally when it gave Clean Water Act permitting over to the state of Florida.

Read More

Our statement:

It's vital for Florida's future that authorities maintain strong and reasonable permitting that protects our wetlands and natural habitat from destruction and damage. Communities across the state are experiencing declines in water quality and quantity due in part to shortcomings in the permitting process. Calusa Waterkeeper is pleased with the recent federal court ruling that the state of Florida was unlawfully given this permitting authority. The Clean Water Act Section 404 exists to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable water. We must all work together to sustain the quality of life and ecosystems for generations to come.

February Fecal Bacteria Indicator Results

CWK conducts Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB) sampling at up to 32 sites in Southwest Florida each month. Enterococci bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness, infections, and rashes.

In both our December and January sampling, the vast majority of results have been above the Florida Department of Health's advisory threshold of 70 MPN. View the full results. (Please note conditions can change daily)

Don't Miss Out:

Quarterly Ranger Meeting

March 9, 2024: Our quarterly gathering of all Ranger zone groups to share updates and collaborate throughout our work area. Guest speaker: Barbara Manzo, Chair of the eYes on Conservation 20/20 Coalition. RSVP Today

Spring Ranger Session

April 2024: We're wrapping up our Winter Ranger Session and will soon confirm the dates for the Spring session beginning in early April. Please contact us if you are interested in being on the list.

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