FL - Indian River Lagoon Report Card: Seagrass Still Suffers From 2016 Lake O Discharges
Poor seagrass quality in the Indian River Lagoon is a concerning trend that continues to appear on an annual report card released by a regional environmental nonprofit.
As water quality throughout the lagoon remains either unchanged or improving over the last 23 years, habitat quality continues to receive low marks, an indication the lagoon's ecological health is suffering, the Marine Resources Council's 2020 report card shows.
The southern portion of the 156-mile-long lagoon, through St. Lucie and Martin counties, received an "extremely poor" rating for seagrass habitat quality. The council attributed much of the problem to Lake Okeechobee discharges in 2016.
Scroll down for a chart on habitat quality scores
The area between the St. Lucie River's south fork to the north Palm Beach County line scored a 4 out of 100 for habitat quality, the first time since 2016 this section has seen a score of anything higher than 0, the council's report shows.
"A glimpse at the graph shows that the 2016 Lake Okeechobee continuous discharge had a devastating effect on seagrasses in this region of the lagoon," the council wrote.
The latest round of Lake O discharges, which lasted nearly three months, dumped about 48.7 billion gallons of lake overflow through the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam between Oct. 14 and Jan. 9, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.