For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - In an effort to review and better understand the further ecological deterioration of the Indian River Lagoon in Martin and St. Lucie Counties, St. Lucie County Commission Chairman Tod Mowery and State Representative Gayle Harrell viewed the situation by helicopter Wednesday.
The flight path allowed them to better observe the extent of the freshwater discharge flow from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River, into the Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.
The immediate environmental concern has been heightened because the freshwater discharges are flowing so heavily that they are drastically slowing the actual tides near the St. Lucie inlet up in the Lagoon. Without the strong natural tides, the freshwater discharges, often exceeding 1 billion gallons per day, are able to freely push northward up in the ecologically sensitive lagoon.
Rep. Harrell and Commissioner Mowery were surprised to notice that the freshwater flows were now extending as far as Nettles Island in southeast St. Lucie County and, without some protection, could continue to push further northward. This situation will continue to threaten the remaining sea grass areas that are essential to preserving sea life and the related economy of the fisheries industry. Consequently, the focus of the two elected officials is on a preventative measure that can be implemented immediately to protect the Lagoon.
Following the helicopter tour Rep. Harrell said, "It is extremely distressing to see the impact the releases from Lake Okeechobee are having the ecology of Indian River Lagoon. We must find innovative solutions that deal with the problem immediately. If the technology that has been developed to deal with oil spills can be used to stop the flow of the polluted water into the Lagoon, we need to use it immediately."
Working with scientists, engineers and County staff, the innovative solutions will be presented today during the State Senate Select Committee meeting in Stuart and involves harnessing the northward flow of the fresh water through booms and turbidity curtains without obstructing navigational waterways in an effort to minimize further sea grass destruction.
These same techniques were used to protect sensitive wetlands and coastal areas of the Gulf Coast during the BP oil spill. The goal is to react now, treating the discharges as an emergency event, realizing the more long term solutions may take years to establish.