U.S. Senator Bill Nelson held a public roundtable in Stuart on Thursday to discuss the environmental crisis occurring in the Indian River Lagoon. Senator Nelson called the meeting in response to recent releases of massive amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee that spawned harmful algal blooms. Seagrasses, oysters and other lagoon life have been dying or fleeing the estuary.
Audubon’s Dr. Paul Gray was an invited panelist along with 17 others including representatives from local governments, the Florida House of Representatives, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and scientists from public and private entities. The round table began with fact finding discussion about present conditions and concluded with an exchange of ideas on what needs to be done to address the situation.
Dr. Gray emphasized Audubon’s priorities for the southern Indian River Lagoon region. Audubon Florida’s solutions include:
- Expediting progress on Everglades restoration projects to reduce coastal estuaries releases and improve year-round health of the estuaries, specifically the Central Everglades Planning Project, C-44 project, and C-43 project.
- Increasing water storage north of Lake Okeechobee and in the estuaries through partnerships with landowners, and maximizing benefits from the Kissimmee River restoration.
- Improving water quality by updating and implementing state rules to limit the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that enters the Northern Everglades watershed from agricultural and urban sources.
- Increasing funding for the South Florida Water Management District to help meet these goals.
Download Crisis in the Indian River Lagoon: Solutions for an Imperiled Ecosystem for more information on Audubon’s proposed solutions.
On August 22, State Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) will chair a Senate Select Committee on Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon. Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper has been invited to present Audubon’s solutions to the Committee.
You can join in the effort to help the Indian River Lagoon by signing on to Audubon’s solutions letter to Sen. Negron by clicking here.