The Caloosahatchee River is a west coast treasure, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Recognizing that the health of the river and its estuary is essential to the overall way of life for area residents, the South Florida Water Management District considers protection and improvement of the Caloosahatchee watershed an agency priority.
Caloosahatchee Ecological Vision
Furthering ongoing efforts with our partners in the Caloosahatchee, the District has announced a new public initiative to collaboratively develop a vision for the watershed that focuses on the ecological conditions of the system. To achieve the vision, the District will bring together stakeholders representing a diverse group of government, environmental, business and agricultural entities, along with other interested parties.
In a series of facilitated workshops starting in spring 2013, stakeholders will focus on determining key ecological attributes that are fundamental to a healthy Caloosahatchee system. The vision will consider historical alterations to the watershed and river and other water-related needs of the region.
The Visioning Process
This initiative is aimed at developing a stakeholder-based vision for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary that clearly articulates the desired ecological conditions and characteristics of a healthy estuarine and riverine ecosystem. This effort will provide cohesion on what the goals are for the river and estuary in the context of the current altered state of the Caloosahatchee Watershed and River, and other water related needs of the region. It will also:
Build upon the many restoration efforts under way in the region
Foster open communication, information sharing and consensus building among stakeholders with a diverse range of interests.
Development of the shared vision will be accomplished through a series of facilitated workshops. A similar process was successfully conducted for the Loxahatchee River. Stakeholders helped define five Valued Ecosystem Components, including the cypress swamp and hydric hammock, fish, oysters and seagrasses.
The District has contracted the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) to design and lead this stakeholder-based process. CBI is a not-for-profit group recognized world-wide for their skill and success in consensus building and mediation of environmental issues. CBI has worked on a number of water-related issues in Florida over the years. We are pleased to have Patrick Field and Bennett Brooks as CBI senior mediators working on this effort. For more information on CBI, Patrick or Bennett please visit the CBI website at: www.cbuilding.org
In addition to CBI, Lesley Bertolotti (email@example.com) is the SFWMD project manager and Phil Flood (firstname.lastname@example.org) is our local representative. Lesley has been involved with environmental issues in South Florida for more than 15 years. Currently, she administers the District's Northern Everglades Program. As South Florida's West Coast intergovernmental representative based in Fort Myers, Phil is well-versed in regional and local programs and initiatives. You may contact them at any time with questions or comments regarding this effort.
Workshop dates and locations will be announced soon.
Beginning in the late 19th century, the Caloosahatchee River and its watershed underwent extensive modifications that drastically altered the hydrology of the region. The once shallow and crooked river was deepened and widened into a regulated waterway that was connected to Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes for navigation, water supply and flood control purposes.
Today, the Caloosahatchee River remains part of one of the world's largest interconnected public works systems. As local sponsor for this federal system, the District works cooperatively with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to manage Lake Okeechobee water levels – and freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee – according to a federal regulation schedule.
Strategies for Improving the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary
The District and our local, state and federal partners have numerous efforts under way to improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee and better manage the timing and quantity of water flows from Lake Okeechobee. The District continues to work with the Corps to optimize water management strategies that may provide incremental improvements for both the estuary and the lake. We are also implementing short- and long-term solutions for improving the health of the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary while balancing regional flood control, water supply and environmental needs for South Florida's 7.7 million residents.