By Chris Horton, Senior Fisheries Director
Congress recently allocated $10.4 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for expedited construction of flood control and storm damage reduction projects in areas affected by landfall of three major hurricanes along the U.S. coastline in 2017.
On April 2, the sportfishing community joined with some Members of Congress in advocating for a portion of these funds to be spent on the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike (Dike) surrounding Lake Okeechobee (Lake) and the completion of qualifying Everglades restoration projects.
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma caused water levels to rise quickly in Lake Okeechobee, and discharges from the Lake to the east and west were needed to prevent failure of the aging Dike’s structure. While necessary to ensure public safety, these intense, high-volume discharges are extremely damaging, causing harm to fisheries and habitat when large pulses of nutrient-loaded freshwater inundate saltwater estuaries.
Ongoing Everglades restoration efforts will eventually allow much of the water in the Lake to flow southward, along a once natural course through the Everglades into the Florida Bay. However, the completion of the projects necessary to direct water south of the lake is still years away. By restoring the integrity of the Dike, water flowing east and west can be metered over time and reduce impacts of high-volume releases on Florida’s southern coasts.
Additionally, the supplemental funding for Dike restoration could free up federal funding for other Everglades restoration projects.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?