Lake Okeechobee releases impacting ocean

Posted at 11:31 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 04:50:38-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Fishermen on the Treasure Coast call it a "sin."  

Murky, brown water is invading their piece of paradise, spreading into the ocean, beyond the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

"Off the Chain" Charter Fisherman, Captain Scott Fawcett, blames the potentially devastating water releases from Lake Okeechobee for the poor water quality he is seeing as far as 2 miles off the coast of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

At first glance, the water may not always look so bad. But, that changes when you can compare it to what it should look like.

“When you get out there and realize, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what it’s supposed to look like? It’s just a sin,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett said Lake Okeechobee releases into the St. Lucie Estuary are being forced into the ocean by currents and the tide.

“On an outgoing tide, it just all goes out the inlet. We have a southern tide along our beaches so it goes out the inlet and gets pushed down the beach.”

Since 2013, Fawcett says the releases have hurt his business. He’s already stopped giving river fishing tours, paddle boarding tours and sight-seeing excursions.

Seeing a more drastic effect to the ocean water quality has him concerned.

Environmental experts are also concerned about the impacts of the releases on the coral reef and sea life.

Nearly two miles off shore, Fawcett found a distinct line of brown water against the clear blue ocean water.

“This was is so disgusting…. It’s sad to see what it’s turned into, that’s for sure,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett says his family has made a living on the water for decades. If the releases pose too much of a threat to his business on the treasure coast, he may have to consider moving his fishing tours to another area.

 “It definitely sticks out in everybody’s head what’s going on. We get people from Wisconsin, California. I mean, they’re all very aware of what’s going on.”

The city of Stuart has approved a resolution to support martin county’s efforts to urge Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency for the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary.

For Fawcett, that could help him get some financial relief for any impacts to hit bottom line from lake releases.

St. Lucie County has also asked the governor to declare a state of emergency.

Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec also has expressed interest in discussing a resolution to request a state of emergency with his council.