Saturday, April 13

Paddleboarders traveling across Florida to raise awareness about impacts of Lake Okeechobee discharges

Three South Florida paddleboarders are on a journey to show the effects of the freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee on Florida’s waterways.

The friends are paddling 150 miles from the state’s east coast to the west coast.

“We’re going to be starting our paddle in the St. Lucie Inlet and then over the course of four days we’re going to make our way across Lake Okeechobee and out to Fort Myers,” paddleboarder Blake Carmichael

said.

Carmichael, Jake Portwood and Packet Casey set off on their journey Thursday morning.

They say they want to make waves in the efforts to resolve issues related to Lake Okeechobee water discharges.

“This is the longest paddle venture I’ve ever taken on, and I think all of us have ever taken on,” Casey said.

Water levels on Lake Okeechobee sit at 16 feet, down from 16.3 feet nearly three weeks ago when the discharges started last month.

“What have you noticed in the last couple of weeks since they started these discharges?” WPTV reporter Cassandra Garcia asked.

“A lot of dark nasty water,” Portwood replied. “Our last major discharge in this area was a little over three years ago, and since then we’ve been seeing some of those grass beds rejuvenate, but now after two weeks of discharge and more currently going on, those grass beds are going to be hurting again.”

As they make their journey across the state, they expect to see more freshwater impacts, especially as they get closer to Lake Okeechobee.

“All of us spend so much time out on the ocean, and we see sort of the impacts there, but it’s going to be interesting to see it right at the source,” Carmichael said.

The trio will be livestreaming their journey on Instagram in hopes that people will get behind their mission.

“We’ve got that live feed for everyone else,” Casey said. “It’s just going to create awareness. … I’m learning about it. Everyone can learn about it at the same time.”

The money raised will go to Captains for Clean Water, an organization that advocates at the federal level to stop harmful water releases.

Click on their GoFundMe page to donate to their cause.

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