Lake Okeechobee is well known for its fishing, and for the complex issues facing the huge lake, such as algae blooms. / Florida Food & Farm file photo; Pahokee Marina

By Melissa L. Meeker
CEO, Water Environment & Reuse Foundation

As a Treasure Coast resident for more than 20 years, I have seen first-hand the damage caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges.

While the recently approved Everglades reservoir bill (SB 10) may help alleviate them, the reservoir is far from a panacea, and it’s important to set expectations about what it will accomplish.

Melissa L. Meeker

Under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) approved in 2000, the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was one of several projects designed to increase the flow of water to the Everglades while providing adequate flood control, agricultural water supply and nominal benefits to the estuaries.

It was never the primary strategy for reducing discharges.

As the Southeast District director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection while the CERP plan was under development, I worked with the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to formulate the plan.

We understood then that getting more water to the Everglades and reducing releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries were two separate issues requiring their own complementary set of science-based solutions.

To say that the reservoir will save the Everglades and prevent coastal discharges is wishful thinking that can’t be backed by science.

We need to stay focused on the two objectives at hand: storing and treating water north of the lake and getting more freshwater to the Everglades.

Melissa L. Meeker, now chief executive officer of the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, formerly served as executive director and governing-board member of the South Florida Water Management District.