Lawsuit launched to stop toxic algae bloom releases from Lake Okeechobee
Conservation groups sued three federal agencies today for failing to address harm to Florida’s endangered species from Lake Okeechobee releases containing toxic algae.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Florida, challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ refusal to address the harms to human health and wildlife like sea turtles and Florida manatees from the lake’s toxic, nutrient-rich discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and their estuaries.
“Our rainy season just began, and we’re already seeing toxic algae in the lake that will soon be released into our canals and coasts,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Summertime in Florida shouldn’t mean putrid, toxic waterways, dead marine life and stagnant coastal economies. Floridians can’t wait four more years just for more of the Corps’ broken promises.”
After receiving the conservation groups’ notice of intent to sue in December 2018, the Corps requested informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. But the agencies have still not engaged in the formal, legally binding consultation required by the Endangered Species Act — the only process sure to lead to improved protections for wildlife.
When the agencies last consulted, they did not evaluate impacts from harmful algae blooms on protected species. In requesting informal consultation, the Corps provided only outdated information — pre-dating 2007 — and otherwise claimed that it “does not have any information” suggesting that lake’s discharges may affect listed species in a manner not previously considered.