Audubon Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Lake Okeechobee,Water Issues

Excessive Nutrients Threaten Health of Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem

posted on August 8, 2014 in Everglades,Lake Okeechobee,Water Issues

Audubon_ExcessiveNutrients_LakeOkeechobee_factsheet_coverimageJust a little south of the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee is in need of help. Pollution continues to enter the Lake at alarming rates from fertilizer, stormwater, and wastewater in the Okeechobee watershed.

Audubon has produced a new fact sheet that explains why high phosphorus is a problem for our treasured lake and gives a vision to fix it. Click here to download. Please feel free to share this document on social media, or print and distribute at your next chapter meeting or community gathering.


A Restored Kissimmee River in Sight

kissimmeeriver_restoredThe remarkable Kissimmee River Restoration Project is approaching completion after decades of construction. Agencies are preparing to operate the finished project in the coming years.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is moving forward with a rule to protect water for the restoration project. The rule, known as a water reservation, is a tool under Florida law to protect water for fish and wildlife or public health and safety. Once the rule is developed, it will legally protect the quantity and timing of water flowing into the Kissimmee River, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and floodplain for the natural system

At a public SFWMD meeting last week, Audubon advocates and environmental partners told water managers that water for Kissimmee Restoration must be fully protected. Water for our ecosystem cannot be siphoned away to utilities and other thirsty water users in the Central Florida area. Click here for more information about this meeting.

Once complete, Kissimmee River Restoration Project will be the largest functioning restoration project of its kind in the world. The project restores 40 miles of the river and floodplain and almost 25,000 acres of wetlands. The benefits of the project are already unmistakable, and it isn’t even fully operational yet.

Earlier this month, Audubon’s Everglades Conservation Team joined our environmental partners in the Everglades Coalition on a trip to see the Kissimmee River Restoration project first hand. The group saw Swallow-tailed Kites, Everglade Snail Kites, Limpkins, Crested Caracaras, and much more! Click here to read more about this trip.

Kissimmee River Restoration Adventure with the Everglades Coalition

Kissimmee EvCo tourWhere can you see Swallow tailed Kites, numerous Everglade Snail Kites, Limpkins, Wild Turkeys, and one Roseate Spoonbill within hours on the last day of July? Try the newly restored section of the Kissimmee River.

Last week, Audubon enjoyed partnering with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to tour the Kissimmee River Restoration Project with over thirty of our environmental allies at the annual Everglades Coalition Retreat. The Everglades Coalition  is comprised of over 50 environmental organizations, including many of our closest friends in the conservation community. It was a great opportunity to get out with friends to see the magic of this restoration project.

Kissimmee Avon kiteKissimmee River Restoration started in 1992. It is now over 90% complete. In the 1960’s, the Kissimmee River was channelized into a large canal for flood control. This huge canal drained the water from miles of important habitat for birds and other wildlife. The Kissimmee River restoration project reestablishes miles of the natural winding Kissimmee River, and restores miles of wetlands and floodplains in the Northern Everglades. Already, populations of birds are higher than what was even projected for post restoration.

And, the project is not even operating at full capacity yet. Once it is complete and operating in a few years, the results should be stunning.

Audubon’s Dr. Paul Gray and SFWMD’s David Colangelo showed us areas of the restored river and floodplain. The winding oxbows of the restored rivers were vibrant with paul kissimmeevegetation.

Endangered Everglade Snail Kites and Swallow-tailed Kites were all around.

We could hear the cackles and laughter of Limpkins just yards away in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.

Many thanks go to Everglades Coalition co-chairs Cara Capp of National Parks Conservation Association and Jason Totoui of Everglades Law Center for making this trip happen! It was refreshing to get out and enjoy this special place together.



Advocates Stand Up for the Kissimmee River and Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Kissimmee river picRecently, Florida’s environmental advocates demanded that the South Florida Water Management District fully protect water for the Kissimmee River Restoration project and its remarkable natural system. The message was clear. Don’t give water needed for restoring the natural system to utilities or other consumptive uses.

The meeting was held by the SFWMD to move forward a water reservation to protect water for Kissimmee River restoration project. A water reservation is a tool under Florida law to protect water for fish and wildlife or public health and safety. Once the rule is developed, it will legally protect the quantity and timing of water flowing into the Kissimmee River, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and floodplain for the natural system.

Our team attended with Kissimmee Valley Audubon, Orange County Audubon, Audubon of the Western Everglades, and other allies like the Everglades Foundation and One Florida Foundation.

After two decades of work and over $900 million in public investment, the precedent setting Kissimmee River Restoration Project is now over 90% complete. This project transforms miles of the drained Kissimmee floodplain and channelized river to a winding river and wetland paradise.

The River and its Chain of Lakes support diverse wildlife. Over 98 species of wading and wetland dependent birds live there, including Swallow Tailed Kites, Whooping Cranes, and Audubon’s Crested CaraCaras.

Failing to protect water for Kissimmee restoration through this legal tool could have a domino effect on the entire ecosystem from Kissimmee Valley to Florida Bay and coastal estuaries. Getting the right amount of water at the right time is extremely important to support life throughout the ecosystem.Kissimmee Snail Kite

Now, there is pressure from water supplies in the Central Florida area. Utilities and water managers are considering tapping up to 25 million gallons per day from the Kissimmee Basin for water supply. Audubon and our environmental allies demand that water for the restoration project is fully protected. We request that the water management districts increase water conservation methods  to promote a more sustainable use of water in the region.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the rule. There will be several more public meetings and we’ll need your voices to speak up for Florida’s birds!

For additional information, please see the following news clips:

The Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem: A Delicate Balance of Water

MacStone_LakeOkechobee-3614The marshes of Lake Okeechobee are a paradise of biodiversity. Everglade Snail Kites, Roseate Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons, and a plethora of other wildlife abound in this great ecosystem at the heart of the Greater Everglades.

For this incredible habitat to thrive, Lake Okeechobee’s water levels cannot be too high or too low. Marsh habitat drowns when water is too deep. When water is too low, marsh habitat dries up and is destroyed.

Last century, the Northern Everglades faced serious alterations to its natural system, as developers ditched and drained land. As a result, the natural system is off kilter and Lake Okeechobee now experiences rapid fluctuations in water levels. This results in harmful effects to the delicate Lake ecosystem. Water managers send large releases of Lake water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries for flood control. These releases have long term negative impacts on their ecosystems and local communities.

In addition, some water users in the south demand the Lake function as a reservoir for their water supply needs, despite the fragile nature of the ecosystem.

Lake Okeechobee’s natural balance of life must be protected. The Audubon Everglades Conservation Team advocates to state and federal partners to manage Lake Okeechobee with its precious ecosystem in mind. The long term fix is to store more water north of the Lake. Audubon supports Kissimmee River Restoration, easement programs, and partnerships with ranchers and landowners to achieve this goal. There are many exciting Everglades restoration initiatives that can help.

Lake Okeechobee’s water levels require proper management to protect this treasured habitat for years to come. Click the link below to download our fact sheet to learn more about the liquid heart of the Everglades. Please feel free to print and distribute at you next Audubon Chapter meeting or community gathering.

Click here to download fact sheet.

City of Stuart Wins Audubon’s Excellence in Water Conservation Award

posted on April 29, 2014 in Chapters,Everglades,Water Issues

sammiCongratulations to the City of Stuart for receiving Audubon Florida’s third annual Excellence in Water Conservation Award.

Each April, Audubon recognizes an outstanding municipality or utility with the Excellence in Water Conservation award. Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to caring for Florida’s finite water resources.

The City of Stuart demonstrated an exceptional commitment to promote a community wide water ethic, under the leadership of project coordinator Mary Kindel. By implementing smart conservation techniques, Stuart successfully avoided the need to build a reverse osmosis plant – saving taxpayers an estimated $13 million.

Jane Graham presented Mayor Troy McDonald with the award at Monday’s City Commission meeting. Audubon of Martin County President John Nelson and South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Powers testified in support and congratulations to the City of Stuart.

Public education is a key focus of Stuart’s 20 year conservation program. Through community events like “Saturday in the Park”, rain barrel decoration contests, and school tours of the water treatment plant, Stuart is making water conservation a way of life for its residents. Notably, there is a water usage barometer in a prominent location in town so people can see how they are doing. Here’s a picture of Stuart’s water conservation mascot Sammi the Sailfish with the barometer “How low Can you Go?” In addition, the plan includes rebates and retrofits for showers, toilets, and other water saving devices for its residents and businesses.

Through these efforts, the City of Stuart aims to reduce water usage by 23% in 20 years. Since 2008, the city has already reduced water usage by 16%.

Keep it up Stuart. As Water Conservation Month comes to a close, we must conserve water year round. One in three Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water so conserving water means protecting the Everglades.

Previous winners of this award were Miami-Dade County and Cooper City.

Stand Up for Everglades Birds and Wildlife. Help Make CEPP a Reality.

posted on April 8, 2014 in Everglades,Water Issues

anhinga_macstoneAudubon Florida’s Everglades Team and advocates like you have worked for years to make restoration of the heart of the Everglades a reality. Now, your voice is needed on Thursday to seal the deal at the South Florida Water Management District.

On Thursday, April 10, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District will vote on sending a “Letter of Support” to the state and federal partners of the important Central Everglades Planning Project. Man-made changes have left the Everglades without enough clean water in the right place at the right time, causing a significant decline in nesting of indicator species like Roseate Spoonbills and Everglade Snail Kites.

CEPP will restore the heart of the ecosystem and flow water south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay through a bundle of projects that store and clean water, redirect it south to rehydrate Florida Bay, and protect urban areas by preventing Everglades water from seepage.

Some of CEPP’s benefits for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem include:

  • Increasing wildlife habitat for native species
  • Decreasing harmful wet season flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries by finally sending water south
  • Delivering 70 billion gallons of freshwater to the southern ecosystem annually
  • Rehydrating aquifers for over 7 million people who rely on the Everglades for drinking water

For the Central Everglades, the time is now or never. SFWMD staff and the Army Corps, along with the environmental community and others have done a tremendous job of working together to develop a plan with unparalleled ecological benefits. If the Letter of Support is not approved next week, the future of this project could be in jeopardy.

Governing Board members need to hear from you about the importance of approving CEPP. Join Audubon Florida at the hearing to make your voice heard on Agenda item #34 for the Everglades.

April 10, 2014
SFWMD Headquarters
B-1 Auditorium
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

If you plan on attending, please click here to email Audubon’s Jane Graham for additional details.

Thank You for Defending Florida’s Water

posted on March 27, 2014 in Online Advocacy,State Government,Water Issues

Black-crowned Night-HeronSB 1464 passes in committee, but late filed amendments improve bill

A sense of urgency was felt leading up to yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Environmental Protection & Conservation Committee, as Audubon Advocates like you and other environmental groups worked to inform committee members about the serious problems in SB 1464 – Environmental Regulation.

Your emails and phone calls were crucial in reminding legislators how damaging this environmental permitting bill would be. In less than 24 hours, over 1,100 people contacted committee members about this bill.

As the clock dwindled down in the committee meeting, amendments starting flying as SB 1464 came up for discussion. Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) emerged as a hero with a series of late-filed amendments that vastly improved this controversial bill.

One amendment from Senator Altman addressed Section 4, one of Audubon’s largest concerns. The amendment removed the section of the bill that prohibits local governments from protecting wetlands in certain drainage districts. Senator Altman also filed numerous other amendments that restored power to local governments in permitting and water supply planning.

Not to be outdone, Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) removed Section 1 of the bill, a provision that would have prevented counties from enforcing wetlands and springs regulations if they were modified or readopted since 2003.

Thank you for defending Florida’s water. There is still a long way to go as we battle this bill, but know that your efforts yesterday made a tremendous difference in addressing the most harmful sections.

Take Action: Protect Florida’s Water – Say NO to HB 703

posted on March 18, 2014 in State Government,Water Issues


HB 703 will hurt our springs, wetlands, and water resources.

For the fourth year in a row, Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) has filed a damaging environmental permitting bill. Enough is enough.

This year’s wide-ranging bill, HB 703prohibits local governments from enforcing wetlands regulations and springs protections. It also grants up to 50-year consumptive use permits for dispersed water storage projects and 30-year consumptive use permits for water projects associated with Development of Regional Impacts.

Issuing 50-year permits means the public will have no say in how that water is used for half of a century. Other worthwhile projects, such as Everglades restoration, may then have to take a back seat.

At a time when there is finally strong consensus at the Capitol for protecting and restoring Florida’s springs and doing proper water supply planning, why should citizens put up with this backwards bill?

This petition is our chance to show developers and special interests that our conservation voices matter.

Click here to add your name.

Audubon Florida Joins Florida Cattlemen’s Association for Tallahassee “Lobby Day”

Commissioner Adam PutnamAudubon Florida joined with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association in their “Lobby Day” effort in Tallahassee on March 12th. Audubon and Florida Cattlemen’s Association are working together in support of a $25 million appropriation to fund the Rural and Family Lands Program, which purchases conservation easements from willing farm and ranch owners. These easements are a major tool in preservation and restoration of Northern Everglades Habitat.

LeeAnn Adams SimmonsMatt Smith from the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey was present with Paige, the educational Bald Eagle. The visit by Paige reminded public officials and others at the Tallahassee reception held by the Cattlemen’s Association that Audubon and Florida ranchers partnered successfully, beginning in 1962, to establish voluntary Bald Eagle sanctuaries on the Kissimmee Prairie, an important stronghold for Bald Eagle populations. It is widely believed that the Kissimmee Prairie population of the Bald Eagle helped the species rebound from near extinction caused by DDT and other persistent pesticides during the 1960’s.

Wes WilliamsonToday, Audubon and ranchers in the Northern Everglades are working toward habitat and water resource conservation and restoration through the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, the Rural and Family Lands Act, the Dispersed Water Management program of the South Florida Water Management District, and the United States Department Of Agriculture Wetland Reserve Program.

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