The future of Caloosahatchee River in Lee County is now in the hands of the federal court system.
Environmental groups filed suit Monday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what they say are repeated violations of water protection laws on the Caloosahatchee River.
The Caloosahatchee is officially designated as a public drinking-water source, although a drinking water plant in Lee County has repeatedly had to shut down because the water is unfit to drink.
Glades, Hendry and Lee County public health departments have issued multiple warnings asking people not to come in contact with the river.
The groups filing the lawsuit want the Corps to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee to maintain the health of the waterway.
"We're not talking about massive amounts of water here," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "We're talking about something that would just have a minute effect on any other user. We don't think that this will hurt anybody."??
Water from Lake Okeechobee is used to irrigate 500,000 acres of sugar cane fields.
Fuller said there is plenty of water for the river and agriculture.??
The Caloosahatchee has multiple environmental problems, including a slimy green algae causing health problems for the people living on the river and wildlife that inhabits the waters.??
The Corps has refused previous requests to release water into the Caloosahatchee.
President Andrew McElwaine of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said neglecting the river affects more than just wildlife.??
"There has been a tendency to neglect the water needs of nature to the preferment of human needs, but that ignores the fact that nature is what really is so important to the economy of the region," he said.
- Florida News Connection