We need more STA capacity to clean and store water, period

This is what 3,000+ cubic feet of water per second looked like at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam in late February as discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River began. Photo courtesy Jason Bultman.

In recent weeks we and our friends at Friends of the Everglades have been highlighting the need to fix Florida’s “rigged” system of water management which favors Big Sugar over all other stakeholders. Part of that has been our campaign to have the South Florida Water Management System take a new look at how the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) south of Lake Okeechobee are managed; we believe more capacity in the STAs must be reserved for water from the lake, to minimize the need for discharges to the coasts and to benefit the health of Lake O itself.

That, however, has generated an increasing amount of pushback from Big Sugar and their shills, who argue the rules governing STA management are set in stone and can’t possibly be changed, and farmers are the backbone of this country, and why aren’t we advocating instead for this, that and the other thing.

None of it changes the bottom line: We need more STA capacity for lake water, period.

That can come in one of two forms: We could reserve capacity in the existing STAs for lake water, as we’ve advocated.

Or, as we’ve also advocated, the state could acquire additional land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) to build more STAs, where water from the lake will get first dibs.

Yes, the EAA Reservoir now under construction will provide some of this capacity — ideally, if everything works as advertised — but while it might be enough to reduce discharges, it won’t be enough to guarantee damaging discharges to the coasts become a thing of the past.

And that is ultimately what the State of Florida and the federal government itself must be striving for: To make damaging discharges a thing of the past. Those discharges inflict harm on ecosystems, on marine life, and where toxic blue-green algae is present, on pets and people.

Our governments must not be in the business of inflicting harm on communities and citizens. But here we are. It must end.

And the only way it ends is via more STA capacity for water from the lake.