I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: manatees are the canaries in the coal mine.  When it comes to clean water and protecting our environment, manatees are one of the first things that can tell us whether or not we’re successful.

Two years ago, we were faced with a mass casualty event when more than one thousand manatees died - mostly from starvation.  The root cause was the destruction of seagrass, the manatees’ primary food source, due to toxic water conditions and discharges from Lake Okeechobee into our estuaries.

That’s why I fight every single day to make sure that toxic, blue-green sludge isn’t sent into our estuaries.  But it doesn’t just impact manatees, it has implications for our economy and our public health.

Thankfully, this summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not make major discharges from Lake Okeechobee when toxic algal blooms were present.  That’s certainly helped keep the number of manatee deaths down, but this fight is far from finished.  We can’t let up; we have to make sure that the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is officially implemented, and we have to keep fighting for our ultimate goal: ZERO discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary.

The manatees depend on it, and our community depends on it.