Lawsuit filed to stop lake releases

FORT PIERCE — Conservation groups sued three federal agencies on June 11, claiming the agencies failed to address harm to Florida’s endangered species from Lake Okeechobee releases containing toxic algae.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Florida, challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “refusal to address the harms to human health and wildlife” lake’s 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,” alleged 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.”

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. According to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, 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 In requesting informal consultation, the Corps provided only outdated information — pre-dating 2007 — and claimed that it does not have any information suggesting that lake’s discharges may affect listed species in a manner not previously considered.

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