Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a South Florida Water Management District request for authorization to use temporary forward pumps to pull water from Lake Okeechobee lower than gravity-flow will allow. 

The Army Corps has agreed with an Audubon request to reduce the permit extension to one year only to allow for a complete analysis of impacts of the pumps on the endangered Everglade Snail Kite and to analyze additional specific conditions that could limit future pump usage. 

Lake Okeechobee is critical Everglade Snail Kite habitat, and decisions that impact how the Lake’s water is managed for the environment, agriculture, and other users can be the difference between life and death for this iconic Florida species. 

“With three severe droughts hitting Lake Okeechobee in less than a decade, it is crucial for state and federal agencies to look closely at impacts of low water levels on the Everglade Snail Kite,” said Everglades Policy Associate Jane Graham.  “The Corps' decision to renew the permit pending an evaluation of the impact of forward pumps on Lake ecology is an encouraging step in the right direction.”

The Everglade Snail Kite is a system-wide indicator species for Everglades restoration success. In order to comprehensively protect Kite habitat and the Greater Everglades Ecosystem as a whole, water level declines should be dealt with through water restrictions and water conservation measures.  Audubon urges that citizens, businesses, and agencies respond to these steps dutifully when drought conditions are identified to avoid the need to use temporary forward pumps when water is most scarce.

Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, said, “The South Florida Water Management District needs to rethink how water from Lake Okeechobee is being used throughout the year to put the environment on par with the sugar industry and other users.” 

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