CALLER: Indian River Lagoon and other Florida fisheries threatened by poor decisions and politics

Caller: Written by David Sikes. December 15, 2017.

This Florida environmental disaster may have started as an unintended consequence of ignorance, but it has evolved into something that appears devious or criminal.

Decades ago, the federal government dramatically altered central Florida's natural wetlands system associated with the meandering Kissimmee River, which feeds Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades and ultimately flows into the state's estuaries.

According to "Marsh Madness," a Field & Stream article by Hal Herring, the natural dynamics persisted unabated for many millennia. During the rainy season, Lake O's southern bank overflowed, releasing a skinny sheet of water, in places 60-miles wide. 

The slow-moving floodwaters flowed across 11,000-square-miles of wilderness, Herring wrote. The natural wetland this created not only filtered nutrients from the watershed and fed the Everglades, it was a boon for wildlife and later aided local economies.

But, Herring said, at some point the massive periodic event was viewed as a nuisance that threatened safety and property. After a devastating hurricane, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built in 1928 to contain and control Lake O from flooding land and crops to the south.

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