Managing Lake Okeechobee water levels important for estuaries
Evaluations are currently underway to update the management of Lake Okeechobee water levels to improve the delivery and timing of water out of the lake to better serve the needs of the greater Everglades. The current management schedule dramatically improved conditions from the previous schedules that held lake levels so high for so long it devastated the lake, drowning the marsh that provides habitat for fish and invertebrates, filters water and secures sediments. There are interests who want to retrograde management back to operating the lake as a reservoir instead of a living system. We must not move backward and risk our investments in restoration; there is too much at stake.
Science and data must guide the re-evaluation of water management. We must use the science and extensive data, collected over decades, to evaluate the pros and cons of alternative operational strategies and their impacts on all features of the system.
Models and scenarios can be useful tools but are only as good as the assumptions they run on. Monitored data is the most reliable source of information of ecosystem response over time. Extensive data show the effects of deeper water on the ecology of the lake and estuaries. Consistent high water levels ravage the lake's network of marshes - the lake's natural water filtration system.