The Caloosahatchee River Connects Us
Living in the United States provides so many opportunities for us. We have access to the best of the best. Sometimes our normal everyday liberties can be easily taken for granted. Clean water and an overabundance of food are never something most of us think twice about. We are truly blessed to live in a community where our needs are taken care of. Even though most of us may never know what it’s like to search for food or shelter, we are still thankful every day for the resources we have. Knowing the value in where we live, invokes a need to preserve what we have.
There is no doubt the Caloosahatchee River connects us.
The health of the Caloosahatchee River has been a focal point of conversation for decades. The changing environment and industrialization along the coastline has drastically affected the estuaries in Southwest Florida. From stormwater runoff from agricultural land development to Lake Okeechobee water releases, these natural influxes of freshwater into the river can have many damaging effects on the environment.
Vocal residents of Southwest Florida have been trying to create awareness and develop conservation plans. In the past few years this issue has gained national attention. “…the South Florida Water Management District is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal, state and local partners on a variety of strategies to improve the health of the Caloosahatchee Estuary.” The potential impact land development will have on the river is now a focal point for many land planners, civil engineers, and landscape architects.
In the late 19th century the Caloosahatchee River was deepened and widened to become a main waterway. This change also affected the hydrology of the water. The health of the Caloosahatchee River is directly tied to the water quality of Lake Okeechobee. During the rainy summer months the water levels naturally rise and require an outlet for the overflow. The water is then released to both the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers to protect the public from flooding. Management of the water levels is strictly watched with the goal of balancing flood control, public safety, and ecological health (to name a few).
“The South Florida Water Management District is undertaking a public initiative to engage key stakeholders in developing and advancing a list of priority projects that will benefit the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary.” The local, state, and federal partners are all working together on strategies to improve the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. Short and long term solutions are being developed and implemented for future urban sustainability. The freshwater discharges into the river contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that contribute to the many algae blooms each year. The high sediment levels that are also deposited into the river are detrimental to the sea grass beds, blocking them from the sunlight needed for growth.
It is important to remember that our economy, society and natural environment is impacted by others throughout the region, state, and globe and nowhere is this interdependency more conjoined than our waterways. Maintaining the correct salt to fresh water ratio in the river is imperative in Southwest Florida. We believe that sustainable agricultural and urban planning practices, combined with regular monitoring of the Caloosahatchee ecosystem will help to reduce the effect of water releases and runoff. Protecting our water system is just one step in developing a fully sustainable community.