The effort to improve water quality in South Florida is in high gear. Over the next few weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers will announce when the new Lake Okeechobee discharge schedule will begin.
"The plan is really looking like to stop the regulatory releases from going to the east coast and stop the harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and Lake Worth Lagoon and then to send this water south where it was naturally supposed to go in the first place” said Mark Perry, Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
If the proposed plan is used, the Corps will stop discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary unless absolutely necessary. As for sending water west, the plan calls for releases to the Caloosahatchee River during certain times of the year when the river needs water, but the discharges would not happen at a harmful discharge rate.
Perry told WPTV’s Michael Williams stopping the discharges will allow South Florida’s ecosystem to recover.
"It is so critical,” Perry said. “If we can stop those discharges from coming into these estuaries it will recover. The Everglades too, if we can rehydrate the Everglades and allow the water to slowly flow south to Florida Bay, which really needs it in the dry season especially.”
Perry commended The Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management for working together to perfect the plan.
Another big project to improve water quality is nearly complete. The C-44 canal in Martin County is expected to open in the next few weeks. It is one of 68 components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Perry said water will fill the reservoir by the middle of November.
Overall, Perry said while there have been some setbacks, he is hopeful for the future of Florida’s ecosystems.
“I am really confident and hopeful that we can really get a big grasp on doing the Everglades restoration,” Perry said.
He also warned supporters not to give up on the fight.
“These are really critical water systems and we've come to this understanding that they are so valuable, and they are valuable to us not only now but in the future so what we need to do is stay persistent, don't give up the fight and keep fighting for clean water,” Perry said.