The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) supports efforts being made on the federal and state levels to address Florida’s water quality issues that can have an impact on fisheries habitat and management. A record-breaking amount of rainfall this past January required that a large amount of water be released from Lake Okeechobee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sending fresh water both west and east to coastal areas that are adversely impacted by such an action.
On Monday, February 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted on an emergency request from the Governor’s office, in coordination with other state agencies, to allow the water to move south on its historic path through Everglades National Park into Florida Bay.
“We encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida state agencies and organizations, along with Congress and the Florida Legislature, to continue to work together toward long term solutions and funding for Everglades restoration,” said Scott Gudes, ASA’s vice president for Government Affairs. “This event provides positive momentum to accelerate the completion of projects that have been identified or are underway to achieve the necessary infrastructure to restore the Everglades to its natural function.”
Gudes further noted, “While it cannot reverse the ecological impacts that have already occurred, these recent actions will mitigate the damage and serve as a model for future cooperative management of one of our most precious resources, the Florida Everglades.”
Florida is the number one fishing state in the U.S. in terms of participation and economic impact. Keep Florida Fishing, ASA’s Florida-based advocacy initiative, was established last year to help ensure that the voices of anglers and the recreational fishing industry are heard when policy decisions are made that impact this key recreational fishing state.
“Nothing is more important to our fisheries than clean water, and through their actions, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District, have demonstrated their commitment to our fisheries and other resources,” said Kellie Ralston, ASA’s Florida Fishing Policy Director. “We applaud their efforts to work together to do the right thing for natural resource conservation.”
Gudes further noted that earlier this month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate, led by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)introduced legislation to expedite all Everglades restoration projects that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to begin in the next five years.
One of the restoration projects that would be authorized immediately if the legislation passes is the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will increase water flow south into the Everglades, reducing the harmful discharges to the St. Lucie (east) and Caloosahatchee Rivers (west).
Gudes concluded, “This situation is a painful reminder of why it is essential that the Everglades restoration projects move forward.”