Lake O slows discharge, conditions improve.

In case you haven’t been keeping up on the latest, the conditions caused by the discharged water from Lake Okeechobee (Lake O) are improving. During the early stages, the situation had been causing a stir among fishermen and boaters.

The water in question is from Lake Okeechobee; the large, inland lake in the center of southern Florida. Lake O is experiencing its highest water levels in nearly 100 years thanks to heavy rainfall. With water reaching a foot above normal, concerns mounted that the added water was stressing the lake’s aging dike. The decision was then made to lower the lake level by draining and routing the water to Florida’s coasts.

This is where the problem starts.

Lake O’s waters contain an assortment of chemicals, fertilizers, and cattle manure. This was bad enough, however, at least the pollution was contained to the lake. Now it has flowed into Florida’s coastal areas via local river ways.

Short term effects

The lake’s untreated water contains chemicals and fertilizers that are harmful to local plant and animal life. Plus, the fertilizers and chemicals found in the water have been known to cause algae blooms which, in turn, are known to poison shellfish—hence affecting every member of the marine food chain. This, ultimately, affects fishing—which is how many of us enjoy our boating.

The last time a significant water discharge occurred here was in 2013. Locals dubbed the tourist season the “lost summer,” reflecting the negative impact it had to boating and tourism as a result of the polluted coastal water. While no numbers are known relative to boating specifically, a 2015 study commissioned by the trade association FloridaRealtors, found that during the “lost summer,” aggregate real estate value fell by a half billion dollars, as potential buyers were reluctant to invest in property that was near polluted water.

Long term fix

The ecosystem is the long term concern. Sea grass, oysters and other ‘filters of the sea’ are being affected by this toxic, fresh water. What affects them will, ultimately, affect every other member of the marine ecosystem. One way to prevent this is to return the lake’s overflow to its more natural course.

Before decades of draining to accommodate increased farming and development, Lake Okeechobee’s water once naturally flowed over its southern banks south to replenish the Everglades. Now, South Florida’s flood-control system holds water in the lake, where it can be used for irrigation and to supplement community supplies. When water levels rise too high, lake water gets redirected out to sea.

One problem is that the lake fills up about three times faster than the Army Corps of Engineers can drain it. The rising lake level has already caused increased seeping of water through the dike’s southern end but no signs of erosion or other damage have occurred, according to the Army Corps. The dike inspections will increase in frequency as the water level rises, but if the heavy rain and ‘El Niño’ weather patterns continue into the spring, the lake draining to the coasts could continue for months. The lake’s 70-year-old dike is undergoing a rehab that could eventually enable it to hold more water, but this is a multi-decade process.

Fort Myers Mayor, Randy Henderson, is interviewed as protesters call for the purchase of the land along the lake’s southern banks to get a long term Everglades restoration plan rolling.

Everglades restoration is widely seen as the long-term alternative to draining lake water to the coasts. Environmental advocates have urged state and federal governments to accelerate funding for reservoirs and water-treatment areas to move more lake water south. These facilities would allow the discharged water to be treated, then sent south to areas that are starving for fresh water instead of dumping untreated water into the sea.

Tourists and locals are regularly posting pictures of the dirty water on social media, hoping to raise awareness, and a number of organizations have had protests and attempted to rally the support of their political leaders toward this end. The state of Florida has the power to solve these water quality issues by using Amendment 1 tax dollars to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and route water south to the Everglades. Protesters fear state legislators will ‘run the clock out’ on this crucial step (the US Sugar land purchase option expires in 2020), which we may never get a chance to purchase again. It is seen a pivotal step to saving our estuaries, economy and the boating lifestyle we all enjoy. We encourage you to pay attention to this issue as it progresses—there is a lot at stake.

Lake Okeechobee Water Release

Please take action!

For many people, recent rain and subsequent release of water into the Caloosahatchee River has been a huge problem. We have received several inquiries from members asking what we can do?

Because of the unusually heavy rains this winter, a massive amount of fresh water tainted with pollutants is being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River basin and the St. Lucie Waterway. We have received several inquiries from members asking what we can be done to affect change?

As the system currently exists there is no other option for release of the extreme quantities of water other than the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Waterway. There are plans as part of the overall Everglades Restoration Plan to provide other options. These are expensive and complex fixes and funding has been held up for many years. Due to the inaction of our government our beautiful rivers, estuaries and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico are paying a terrible price with this unnecessary influx of polluted fresh water. It is time for our government to take both short and long-term action.

What can we do? We can join others in a rallying cry to the agencies involved.

Mayor Kevin Ruane of Sanibel has issued a call to action and our Government Affairs Consultant, Joe Mazurkiewicz, has suggested that SWFMIA members back his effort. SWFMIA members can support this effort by urging your elected officials to support the Mayor’s “3 Step Action Plan” described below. Additionally, the SWFIMA is leveraging this situation as a call to action. Members are asked to contact our Congressional delegation to get them to help move the Federal government to fund their share of the Everglades Restoration projects ASAP.

This is a real issue that exemplifies the need for all our members to get involved. Nothing is more effective than residents and local businessmen taking direct action to contact legislators.

Please copy us on any e-mails or faxes you send.

Sanibel Mayor Calls for Immediate Implementation of 3-Point Action Plan in Response to Lake O. Releases

While in Tallahassee addressing our State legislators on critical long-term local and regional water quality projects Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane issued a call for immediate action by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers to address the current Lake Okeechobee releases. Simultaneously, Mayor Ruane issued a call to the mayors of each city in Lee County to work collectively on requesting a 3-Point Action Plan. “As a community, as a region and as a government restoring and protecting the quality of our economic lifeline, water quality, is our highest priority. We know we are most effective in Tallahassee and Washington when we speak with one unified voice. Today I am calling on the mayors of our sister cities to support this 3-Point Plan for immediate action steps” stated Ruane as he issued the “Call for Action.”

The “3 Step Action Plan” calls for:

  • Maximizing storage on all private lands currently under contract with the SFWMD
  • Maximize potential storage on public lands within Lee County
  • Call on the Army Corps of Engineers and the SFWMD to exercise their operational flexibility to hold more water in the Lake

Click here to read Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane’s request to the mayors of Lee County.
Click here to read the City of Sanibel’s Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues White Paper: Short and Long-term solutions for storage and treatment.

Have you seen a direct impact?

Our Tallahassee Lobbyist, Missy Timmins is looking for any numbers you might have on direct impact to your business of the water release. Or, relay any specific comments of customers or related incidents

This is needed immediately. Please e-mail [email protected]

Please contact your senator and representative

Below is a contact list for our Senators and Representatives, and a link that will help you identify your district. Click on “Map of Congressional Districts” and zoom in.

US Congressional Contacts in SWFMIA Member Area

Senators DC Phone DC Fax Contact Form
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) 202-224-5274 202-228-2183
Nick Russell – Legislative Asst. [email protected]
Abby Tinsley – Legislative Assistant [email protected]
Senator Marco Rubio 202-224-3041 202-228-0285
Eleni Valanos – Legislative Correspondent [email protected]
Lauren Reamy – Professional Staff Member [email protected]
District Congress DC Phone DC Fax Contact Form
11 Representative Richard Nugent (R – 11) 202-225-1002 202-226-6559
12 Representative Gus M. Bilirakis (R – 12) 202-225-5755 202-225-4085
13 Representative David Jolly (R – 13) 202-225-5961 202-225-9764
14 Representative Kathy Castor (D – 14) 202-225-3376 202-225-5652
Representative Dennis Ross (R – 15)
202-225-1252 202-226-0585
Representative Vern Buchanan (R – 16)
202-225-5015 202-226-0828
Representative Thomas J. Rooney (R – 17)
202-225-5792 202-225-3132
Representative Patrick Murphy (D – 18)
202-225-3026 202-225-8398
Representative Curt Clawson (R – 19)
19 Pat Cauley – Chief of Staff [email protected]
19 Jack Tymann – Senior Advisor [email protected]
Representative Carlos Curbelo (R – 26)
202-225-2778 202-226-0346

Here is a a copy of the letter SWFMIA is sending to our U.S Senators and Representatives in our membership area. Please personalize any correspondence you send but you are welcome to use any of our wording that you wish.

SMA Okeechobee letter

Notice to Navigation: Canaveral and Okeechobee Waterway Lock Closures for Manatee Protection System Maintenance

NTN 2016-004 Lock Closures for Manatee Protection System Maintenance Notice to Navigation Interests: Canaveral and Okeechobee Waterway Lock Closures for Manatee Protection System Maintenance: read notice.

Notice is given that Canaveral, W.P. Franklin and St. Lucie Locks will have scheduled 4 hour closures 7:30 -11:30 a.m. and 12-4 p.m. at locations and dates listed below to support annual maintenance to the Manatee Protection System.

W.P. Franklin: Monday, February 22, 2016
St. Lucie: Tuesday February 23, 2016
Canaveral: Wednesday – Thursday, February 24 – 25, 2016

To be notified about future Notices to Navigation, sign up for the e-mail distribution list here.

Get connected with social media for the most up to date information:
Twitter @JaxStrong
Jacksonville District Facebook
Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway Facebook:

Manatee Down-listing – Public Comment Needed


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced plans to downlist the West Indian manatee from endangered to a less-serious status of threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  This is primarily a result of a steady increase in the manatee population in recent years.

It is not anticipated that this would mean any short-term changes in speed zones or other protections currently in place.  In the longer term, it could ease some restrictions on dock permitting and dredging and may lessen the chance for further speed zone restrictions.

The Marine Industries Association of Florida actively supports responsible boating practices and stewardship of all natural resources.  We continue to advocate for sound decisions, based on science, in managing the manatee.  It is our belief that this is a responsible move on the part of the service and indicative of the success of the Endangered Species Act in bringing the manatee population back to sustainable levels.

The Service is now asking for public comment, a key step in the downlisting process.  We encourage every boater, fisherman, and outdoorsman to participate in this process.  Comments from actual waterway users has far more impact than any other single source.

Please link to the comment site at:!documentDetail;D=FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178-0001.

Be respectful, be factual, and point out that you actually live in Florida or make use of Florida waters. Below is a sample response, but please use your own words and personal experience in crafting your reply. The more individual each response is without it looking like a form letter the more likely it will be read and considered.

“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed down-listing of the manatee from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’. As a Florida resident and a boater, I have personally seen the growth of the population, and the expansion of their range. Given this growth over the past decades, “endangered’ status is not applicable. I encourage wildlife managers to develop a long term program to sustain the population in balance with other critical resources important for our estuaries. As with other species, we should study carrying capacity, food resources, and possible threats from an over-abundance of animals in certain locations.  Those efforts cannot be undertaken with a species listed as “endangered’.  This step is long over-due, and I applaud the Service for its action and more importantly it’s success in recovering the manatee.”

Finally, mark your calendar for February 20th. There will be a public forum at the Buena Vista Palace in Orlando.   It is critical that concerned residents attend and testify in person. The meeting runs from 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.


Notice: Ortona Lock Closings for Maintenance



The boating Public should be aware that the U.S. Army Core of Engineers has scheduled maintenance of the Ortona Lock, on the Okeechobee Waterway in Moore Haven. Maintenance, which will affect boating access, is projected to take place over approximately the next seven months.

Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association president, Hans Wilson, contacted the Army Corp to inquire about the schedule and the timing of the lock maintenance. Below is the response from the Army Core’s John Campbell. Our thanks to the Army Corp for a quick response.

“The timing of the project has more to do with the funding we received from Congress and some limitations regarding the time we have for those funds to be spent. Typically, funds that Congress appropriates for operations and maintenance activities have a one-year shelf life before they must be committed through an obligation. These particular funds were appropriated for use in fiscal year 2015, which ended SEP 30.

The Corps committed and obligated those funds through a contract for work that we signed just before the end of the federal fiscal year. The contract allows seven months to complete the work, assuming no issues.

We have had success with a similar locking schedule at Port Canaveral while performing similar repairs. The traffic count at Canaveral is greater than what we see at Ortona. Locking activities will occur three times daily in the morning, at mid-day, and in the evening. While not a perfect solution for everyone, this schedule allows the Corps to complete necessary work on the infrastructure while making it possible for boaters to continue using the facility.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact me if I can be of further assistance. Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!”

John H Campbell
Public Affairs Specialist
Jacksonville District, US Army Corps of Engineers

Attention Gulf Red Snapper Anglers

Photo provided by MyFWC
Photo provided by MyFWC

Big changes to Gulf recreational red snapper management could be coming – here’s your chance to weigh in and make sure your voice is heard. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) is holding public hearings on a proposal known as regional management that could give states a larger role in red snapper management in federal waters. See meeting dates and times below.

Currently, the Council is responsible for management of the recreational red snapper fishery in all Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages state waters off Florida. If the Council approves regional management, the federal recreational red snapper quota would be divided state-by-state or at a regional level, and states would set recreational seasons and bag limits in both state and federal waters off their coast.

Regional management could allow for recreational red snapper regulations in federal waters to be tailored to more local needs. However, there are possible trade-offs, such as potentially fewer fishing days for Florida red snapper anglers.

Two meetings will be held in Florida on regional management during October. Council and FWC staff will be on hand at these meetings to discuss proposal details and what it might mean for Florida anglers. If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, there will also be a webinar.

The FWC Commission will discuss regional management and review input from the public hearings at its Nov. 18-19 meeting in Panama City. This input will help the FWC Commission decide how the FWC representative on the Council should vote on the Council’s regional management proposal.

The Council is expected to make a final decision on regional management at its Jan. 25-29 meeting in Orange Beach, AL.

Meeting dates and locations:
All in-person meetings begin at 6 p.m. local time and end no later than 9 p.m. local time. The webinar begins at 6 p.m. Eastern Time.

Thurs, October 22, 2015
Embassy Suites
570 Scenic Gulf Drive
Destin, FL 332550

Tues, October 27, 2015
Hilton St. Petersburg
Carillon Park
950 Lake Carillon Dr.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

Wed, October 28, 2015

Click here to register!

Public Hearing Guides with details about the Council’s regional management proposal will be posted on the Council website at

Rep. Jolly introduces bill that could lead to a longer Red Snapper fishing season


Seminole, FL – Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) has introduced legislation that will lead to a more accurate count of Red Snapper and other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill, called the Gulf Red Snapper Data Improvement Act, will allow for third-party data collection of fish populations to be used for federal stock assessments, which could ultimately lead to longer Red Snapper fishing seasons for the recreational sectors.

“Many in the fishing community, from private anglers, to charter, to commercial, have questioned the government’s stock assessments. My bill will give each of them a seat at the table. Third-party data collection will expand the information available to the government, particularly Red Snapper, and improve the data used to determine fishing seasons,” Jolly said.

The Gulf Red Snapper Data Improvement Act designates $10 million annually for third-party data collection of Gulf Red Snapper and other Gulf reef species. The data collection program will be managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Regional Office located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“This will improve our knowledge of fisheries stocks and if the research shows a larger fish population than the government suggests, this will open the door for a longer fishing season for species like Red Snapper. And a longer Snapper season is an economic and quality of life win throughout our community, positively impacting everyone from local scientists committed to the protection of fish populations, to recreational anglers, to charter operators, to businesses that depend on fishing tourism like hotel and restaurant operators,” Jolly noted.

A member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, Jolly was able to secure similar language in the Fiscal Year 2016 House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Bill earlier this year.

For additional information regarding this legislation please contact Preston Rudie, Communications Dir. for Representative Jolly at (727) 418-7722. You may also click this link to visit Representative Jolly’s website.

Who is is hosted by the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association. We are a member-owned trade association made up of businesses involved in the recreational boating industry. SWFMIA was formed in the early 1970’s when a small group of Ft. Myers boat dealers joined together to stage the first Fort Myers Boat Show.


At the time, the only plan was to generate a few boat sales from a show, but before long the show began to grow, by-laws were written, a board of directors formed and SWFMIA was incorporated. Actually, Boat Shows and Trade Associations are an essential element in the marine industry. Most major boat shows in the U.S. are owned by a trade association and it is the revenue from these shows that fund the lion’s share of operating budgets.

Today, SWFMIA represents the industry from Lee County through Tampa Bay, with over 200 members. We are governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a very diverse group of industry business leaders. Our objectives are to protect, promote and grow recreational boating. We play an active role monitoring legislative and political issues that affect boating, both for our member businesses and for the boating public. We provide a variety of services to our members and keep them informed on industry news and issues.
We produce three annual boat shows. The Fort Myers Boat Show, downtown on the river in November. The Charlotte County Boat Show, in January at the Charlotte County Fairgrounds. The Bonita Springs Boat Show in February at the Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound Track.


About four years ago, our Board decided to create a web site that would be a source of boating information for the public. As you look through the site, you will find all kinds of information useful to enjoying your time on the water. You will also find a listing of our members, the products and services they offer and links to their web sites. This is a great source for just about any type of boat, product or service you might need in our region.

We are working to make the site a better resource to keep boaters informed about legislative, political, and rule making issues related to boating. We have local, state and national lobbyists who keep us up to speed on potential issues. For example, in the last several months, we have been involved in or are monitoring the Manatee Protection Plan being adopted in Pinellas County, the St. Petersburg Downtown Waterfront Redevelopment, the dredging of Big Pass in Sarasota, boat ramp issues in Cape Coral, and development of the Historic District in downtown Fort Myers. We’re keeping an eye on pending statewide legislation standardizing rules on where boaters can anchor. On a national level, pending legislation to increase ethanol levels to 15% will adversely affect most marine engines.

You will also see blogs on our site with all kinds of boating information. Boaters are welcome to provide contributions about your time on the water. Send us a story and a few photos about a recent day on the water or a special fishing trip. How about a great restaurant or watering hole you have been to by boat. We live in the greatest boating area in the U.S. and it would be great if you would share your boating lifestyle with others.

We welcome your comments, suggestions, and input on our site. How can we make it more informative and useful? Please e-mail us at [email protected]. We will respond.

NEWS: Only a few days left to make your comment on the EPA’s ethanol proposal.


There’s only a few days left before the EPA’s ethanol comment period closes. This is our last chance to tell the EPA that we want less ethanol in our fuel supply, the freedom to choose E0 and the assurances to better protect marine engines against E15.


Thousands of comments from the boating community have poured in demanding the EPA reverse course on its proposed increase to the ethanol mandate, but every comment counts.

Will you join them and help make a difference?


The deadline is Monday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.


NEWS: EPA proposes raising ethanol levels in our fuel.


Last week, the EPA held the only public forum on its proposal to raise the ethanol levels in our fuel supply. It was held in the heart of corn country, and no surprise it was decidedly a one-sided debate.

Governor Jay Nixon (MO) energizes hundreds of Pro-Ethanol Supporters at EPA Hearing (Credit: AgWired).

Of the more than 250 testifying participants, all but a dozen were for increasing the amount of ethanol — even beyond the EPA’s proposal!

Our voices will be drowned out if we don’t take action. We need you to join our effort and contact the EPA. Tell them to protect boating and decrease the amount of ethanol in our fuel supply.

2,000 people in the boating industry have already commented through our link. Will you join them and make this a fair debate?

Comment Right Here, Right Now.