Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Pressure Mounts to Protect Florida's Caloosahatchee River: Now up to courts

The Caloosahatchee River, also known as the C-43 Canal, connects Lake Okeechobee with the Gulf of Mexico.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The future of a southwest Florida river is now in the hands of the federal court system. On Monday, environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what they say are repeated violations of water protection laws on the Caloosahatchee River.

Links of interest:
Sierra Club Florida
Protecting Our Water

The groups want the Corps to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee to maintain the health of the waterway. Manley Fuller is president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, one of the groups filing the lawsuit.

"We're not talking about massive amounts of water here. We're talking about something that would just have a minute effect on any other user. We don't think that this will hurt anybody."

Caloosahatchee River with green slime.

The water from Lake Okeechobee is used to irrigate 500,000 acres of sugarcane fields. Fuller says there is plenty of water, both for the river and agriculture.

The Caloosahatchee has multiple environmental problems, including a slimy green algae that is reportedly causing health problems for the people living on the river and the wildlife that inhabits the waters.

There have been multiple unsuccessful requests to the Corps to release water into the Caloosahatchee. At the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, a second plaintiff group, President Andrew McElwaine says neglecting the river affects more than just wildlife.

"There has been a tendency to neglect the water needs of nature to the preferment of human needs, but that ignores the fact that nature is what really is so important to the economy of the region."

The Caloosahatchee is officially designated as a public drinking-water source, although a drinking water plant in Lee County has repeatedly had to shut down because the water is unfit to drink. Glades, Hendry and Lee County public health departments have issued multiple warnings asking people not to come in contact with the river. 

Link box and photos added by the Observer

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