Tempers flare across Florida as dry conditions persist — perfect weather for the state’s most pernicious parasite: worry. With less than 12 feet of water in Lake Okeechobee, farmers and fishermen fear allocations may be insufficient to sustain the region’s agriculture and its estuaries.
But who is responsible for finding a solution? Neither the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seems certain. The SFWMD traditionally assumes responsibility for water supply across 16 counties, while the Corps controls lake releases and infrastructure functions.
During a recent meeting, the SFWMD passed the decision to the Corps. The Corps currently plans to continue with its intermitent pulses of freshwater from Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River, but only for nine days.
Debate also rages around a new water management plan to seasonally regulate lake levels, which includes the repair of a decrepit dike — an endeavor that could take over 20 years.
Commissioners, board members and environmentalists in Lee county, the area most affected by Lake Okeechobee’s dwindling supply, argue that the plan only perpetuates ecological dangers and puts commercial fisheries at risk.
”It’s three inches of water for us and three feet for the agricultural community,” Audubon Society member Pete Quasius told the Miami Herald. “It’s not about the bugs and bunnies, it’s about our quality of life.”
According to Charles Dauray, a SFWMD board member, none of the anthropocentric approaches quell public nerves. ”Taxpayers deserve more than confusion at the top,” he said. “This is very sloppy.”
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Source: Miami Herald