Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sierra Club: Don't pump sugar's polluted water into Lake Okeechobee

August 8, 2012

Dear South Florida Water Management District Governing Board members,

Thank you for looking into alternatives that could provide water to the Caloosahatchee River.

More than a century of drainage, channelization and diking plus climate-induced drought has led us to the current dilemma. However, backward pumping polluted water is not the solution.

The Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization opposes any plan to pump agricultural pollution into Lake Okeechobee.

Under the plan to boost water levels, untreated EAA run-off, laden with nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and herbicides, would be pumped backwards into Lake Okeechobee.

According to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, the pollutants “could lead to a dead zone in the lake, resulting in algae blooms and low oxygen levels that kill fish, aquatic insects and disrupt other aspects of the lake’s food chain.” 
Polluted runoff would run through the heart of the City of Belle Glade and be pumped into Lake Okeechobee at Torry Island, home to the community’s public fishing area and recreational space. Backpumping would be detrimental to the local public’s enjoyment of the area and would all but eliminate any tourism in this community.

In addition, pumping water into Lake Okeechobee diverts water critically needed in the Everglades, water that the State of Florida is proposing to spend an additional $890 million to clean. Instead of cleaning the water and allowing it to flow south to the Everglades naturally, the District would force the water back north, cutting off a vital water supply to the water-starved wetlands and native species. Diverting water that would otherwise go to the Everglades and replenish the aquifer would reduce water available to Southeast Florida’s urbanized areas.

The Sierra Club supports supplying more water to the Caloosahatchee by modifying the adaptive protocols to eliminate the tributary hydrologic conditions restraint, prioritizing the Lake Hicpochee project, expediting the C-43 reservoir, and greater water conservation measures. 

Taking these steps – not backpumping – will protect the Greater Everglades, as well as the people and the economies that depend upon a healthy ecosystem.

Again, thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Jonathan Ullman,
Sierra Club Everglades Team

Sierra Club South Florida/Everglades Office, 2600 SW 3rd Ave., 5th Floor, Miami, FL 33129, 305-860-9888