Algae Bloom In Lake Okeechobee Has Microcystin Levels That Are 80x More Toxic Than What WHO Deems To Be Unsafe Levels

Last week, Florida DEP announced that the latest algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee has microcystin levels that are 80 times more toxic than what the World Health Organization deems to be unsafe levels. Microcystins pose a grave health hazard and are capable of making humans and animals very sick. We can only hope that water levels in the lake remain low enough that water won’t need to be discharged into the estuaries, causing another environmental and human health disaster like the one we faced in 2016.

Decades of pollution and mismanagement have led us here, and the problems in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the surrounding communities will only be solved if we fix the water flows (sending more water south to Florida Bay and less east and west into the estuaries) and drastically reduce the levels of contaminants in that water. The swift implementation of SB-10 remains an important step in the efforts to fix the problems that are threatening ecosystems and communities in South Florida.

A New Era For The South Florida Water Management District?

Are we entering a new era for the South Florida Water Management District? Environmentalists are hopeful that the answer is yes, as scientist Ernie Marks was just tapped to take over the Executive Director of the SFWMD role, replacing Peter Antonacci.

Unlike Antonacci, whose main qualification was being general counsel to Governor Scott, Marks has a background in science and is highly qualified for the role. He has been working for the district as the director of Everglades policy and coordination, and previously served as the south region director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Prior to that, he spent 13 years working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Hopefully, science will be put back behind the wheel. That includes reestablishing ties to the National Academy of Sciences, beginning the scientific modeling laid out in SB10 to ensure there is sufficient land for the treatment needs of the 240-360K EAA reservoir, and tabling deep well injection, which was never a part of CERP, already objected to by the Army Corps of Engineers and would shortchange southern storage (needed for Florida Bay in drought conditions) by wasting water underground.

It’s time to let science and reason prevail. The appointment of Marks gives us cautious optimism that they will.

ICAST/IFTD Show In Orlando

Last week, the fishing industry gathered at the annual ICAST/IFTD show in Orlando, a fitting location since Florida has the largest fishing industry in the country. Also in attendance were representatives from the Now or Neverglades founding partners as well as Senator Joe Negron, who was primarily responsible for SB 10.

The show further affirmed enthusiasm for Now or Neverglades from the fishing world, with many more industry leaders signing the declaration and pledging support. The fishing industry recognizes that building the reservoir and completing the other critical Everglades restoration projects is key to both their businesses and way of life.

Meanwhile, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is threatening to stop cooperating with the team of scientists that advises Congress about Everglades issues. As we await the outcome of the reservoir and many other Everglades restoration projects, this is a concerning development, but we are hopeful that the unity of the companies and individuals affected by the challenges in the Everglades will help continue the push forward to save this national treasure.

“It’s An Emergency In The Everglades”

“It’s an emergency in the Everglades,” said Ron Bergeron, commissioner for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Heavy rains in the past few weeks in South Florida have continued to highlight what we already know – the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is needed to help properly store, clean and convey fresh water. Without it, the state is left with only poor choices for how to manage the flooding, inevitably putting coastal communities, our waterways, ecosystems and many species of animals, fish and birds at grave risk. The situation is urgent, and this has to stop. We need to keep the pressure on and ensure that the reservoir is built in a timely manner so we can prevent the cycle of catastrophic drought and flooding from happening in the future.

Thank you for your continued support of our efforts.

Senate Bill 10 Implementation Schedule

Last month marked a major legislative victory for Everglades restoration, the culmination of the hard work of many lawmakers, individuals, companies and organizations. Still, there is much work to be done, and we need to keep the pressure on to ensure that the legislation – calling for building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and convey freshwater – becomes a reality.

Below is a timeline of important milestones to ensure Senate Bill 10 is implemented in a timely manner and the reservoir is built.

We have won a major victory, but now is not the time for complacency. Thank you for helping us keep the pressure on to ensure a brighter future for the Florida Everglades.

Governor Scott Signs Senate Bill 10 Into Law

Last week, Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 10 into law, clearing the way for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and properly convey freshwater. The historic occasion was the culmination of an extended effort by thousands of organizations, companies and individuals and was led through the Florida Legislature by Senator Joe Negron. I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who played a part in pushing this legislation through. It marks an important step in the fight to restore the Everglades. Days later, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast introduced federal legislation to help expedite the process.

Despite this significant progress, we must remain vigilant to ensure that this legislation is implemented in a timely manner, and that the many other planned components to restore the Everglades are also put in place. Strong forces still oppose our progress, and we must continue to fight them at every turn and present a united front as the Now or Neverglades coalition, currently 60,500 strong.

This moment could not have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of each and every one of you. Thank you for your support of the Now or Neverglades coalition, and for your continued work to help us save the Everglades.

We Have News From Tallahassee!

We have news from Tallahassee! The Florida Senate and House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 10 yesterday, paving the way for a much needed EAA Reservoir. This was an incredibly important day for the Everglades and the future of Florida’s water!

Thanks to people like you – fishing guides, anglers, business owners, homeowners and people from around the country – Florida’s legislators heard from the people about why sending water to the EAA reservoir is so important.

Each and every one of you who took the time to sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration and contact elected officials played a part in bringing this legislation so far.

We appreciate the House and Senate working together to create and pass this bill. Now it is headed to Governor Scott’s desk. We are so close!

Thank you for all your support and everything you have done to help us protect Florida’s water. But our work is not over. This is not the first time the Everglades was declared saved. We must remain vigilant to ensure that the EAA reservoir has enough storage, treatment and conveyance to restore health to our estuaries. Our Now or Neverglades effort is more important than ever, and we can’t rest on our laurels until the the water is flowing south.

But today, let’s celebrate our historic achievement! YOU made this happen. Thank you.

Take Action! Call Your State Representative Today.

We are so very close to getting the most important part of Everglades restoration in place – a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and properly convey freshwater south to the Everglades and Florida Bay and reducing toxic discharges out the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Estuaries.

Thanks to your efforts, Florida Senators received thousands of phone calls urging them to vote yes on the bill, and our Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.

At this critical time, we turn our efforts to the Florida House of Representatives, asking them simply to pass the bill intact – no more amendments! No more complex, unrelated pork barrel political trading. We ask them to just do the right thing for the future of Florida’s quality of life, health, economy and environment.

Please take two minutes TODAY to make these important calls to the committee chair, vice-chair and your representatives.

It will make a world of difference for Everglades restoration. They need to hear from you before the committee meets on Monday!

Below are phone numbers for Rep. Matt Caldwell (Chair) and Rep. Charlie Stone (Vice-Chair). Please call them. Your county Representative’s number is also listed. Please call them as well.

It’s truly Now or Neverglades for all of us.


Contact your representatives TODAY and tell them to pass Senator Negron’s water bill with no amendments!

Representative Matt Caldwell, Chair, (R)- part of Lee County
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5079

Representative Charlie Stone, Vice-Chair, (R)- Levy and part of Marion County
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5022

Committee Members By County

Alachua County – Representative Clovis Watson, Jr. (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5020

Bay County – Representative Brad Drake (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5005

Broward County – Representative Kristin Jacobs (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5096

Collier County – Representative Bob Rommel (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5106

DeSoto County – Representative Ben Albritton (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5056

Duval County – Representative Jay Fant (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5015

Glades County – Representative Cary Pigman (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5055

Hardee County – Representative Ben Albritton (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5056

Highlands County – Representative Cary Pigman (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5055

Hillsborough County – Representative Wengay M. “Newt” Newton, Sr.(D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5070

Representative Dan Raulerson (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5058

Holmes County – Representative Brad Drake (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5005

Jackson County – Representative Brad Drake (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5005

Manatee County – Representative Wengay M. “Newt” Newton, Sr. (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5070

Marion County – Representative Clovis Watson, Jr.
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5020

Miami-Dade County – Representative Barbara Watson, Democratic Ranking Member, (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5107

Representative Holly Raschein (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5120

Monroe County – Representative Holly Raschein (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5120

Okaloosa County – Representative Jayer Williamson (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5003

Okeechobee County – Representative Cary Pigman (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5055

Orange County – Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5049

Palm Beach County – Representative Joseph Abruzzo (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5081

Representative Matt Willhite (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5086

Pasco County – Representative Amber Mariano (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5036

Pinellas County – Representative Chris Latvala (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5067

Representative Wengay M. “Newt” Newton, Sr. (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5070

Polk County – Representative Ben Albritton (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5056

Representative Colleen Burton (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5040

Representative Neil Combee (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5039

Santa Rosa County – Representative Jayer Williamson (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5003

Sarasota County – Representative Wengay M. “Newt” Newton, Sr. (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5070

Seminole County – Representative Scott Plakon (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5029

St. Lucie County – Representative Cary Pigman (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5055

Volusia County – Representative Patrick Henry (D)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5026

Representative David Santiago (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5027

Walton and Washington Counties – Representative Brad Drake (R)
Tallahassee office: (850) 717-5005

NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day TOMORROW

Last week, fishing guides gathered in Islamorada on a windy day, spelling out the word “HELP” with flats skiffs, yet another plea for change from some of those most affected by the ongoing water crisis in South Florida. I recently wrote a piece about how much I’ve seen the South Florida fishery change since I started fishing down here in the 1970s. For those who are on the water daily making a living, the changes are profound and heartbreaking.

Tomorrow, many captains and anglers from around Florida are taking days off of work to travel to Tallahassee to make their voices heard, imploring lawmakers to follow what was outlined by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000 and build the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to help store, clean and properly convey fresh water, sending more water south to Florida Bay.

Whether or not you are able to attend tomorrow’s event, I thank you for your support of the Now or Neverglades movement. We have come a long way in our fight for Everglades restoration, and it is the grassroots effort of people like you that is making an indelible impact.


Tomorrow at 4 pm at the Edison Restaurant in Tallahassee, hundreds will gather to make our collective voices heard. Together we will meet with legislators from our districts and from all parts of Florida. We will also hear from Senator Negron and other legislators regarding the importance of southern storage to reduce the discharges and bring water south to the Everglades & Florida Bay. We hope to see you there!

Register Now

If you can’t join us in Tallahassee, TEXT the word WATER to 52886 and help us make a difference!

Now Is Not The Time To Let Up

Since forming the Now or Neverglades coalition a year ago, tens of thousands of individuals, conservation organizations and companies have stepped up and shown their support by signing the Now or Neverglades Declaration. The momentum is swinging in our favor, with bills recently filed in both the Florida Senate (SB10) and House (HB761) to expedite a project to stop discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and send Lake Okeechobee water south where it can be stored, cleaned and properly conveyed, with more water heading south to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. This is the common-sense solution we need, based on the recommendation of over 200 Everglades scientists, to help alleviate the water crisis our state currently faces.

Now is not the time to let up, as strong forces are still working to ensure this legislation doesn’t pass. I thank you for your past support, and I ask you to take action again, by ensuring that everyone you know has signed the Now or Neverglades Declaration. With that simple action, you can be a part of changing the course of history and saving the national treasure that is the Everglades.

Through this newsletter, I look forward to keeping you updated on the ongoing efforts of the many individuals, conservation organizations and companies working hard to secure a brighter future for the Florida Everglades.