Water discharges ignite Lake Okeechobee protests

Posted at 11:07 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 07:39:53-05

It's been nearly a full week since much larger freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee have poured into the Indian River Lagoon.

On Tuesday, two dozen environmentalists and small business owners brought signs outside the Martin County Commission meeting, concerned that we could see a repeat of the summer of 2013, when freshwater from Lake Okeechobee created toxic algae blooms

Motel owner Irene Gomes told Martin County commissioners Tuesday that she was so excited recently to see the bottom of the Indian River. 

"This is our waterways here.  This is what our economy is based on. If we don’t have clean water,  we don’t have a good economy, so we need tourism," said Gomes.

Mark Perry with the Florida Oceanographic Society says too much freshwater will destroy oyster beds and seagrass.

“We’ve got to declare a state of emergency and ask the state and federal governments to do the same, declare a state of emergency," said Perry as supporters applauded.

The lake is currently well over 16 feet, so the discharges will likely continue for the foreseeable future since the goal for the Army Corps of Engineers is to bring it down to 12.5 feet in time for the rainy season.

County Commissioners directed staff members to take pictures of the River Warriors' protest.  They said they'll send the pictures to the governor to let state lawmakers know this problem isn’t going away soon.