Lake O levels affecting river, businesses

JENSEN BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The St. Lucie River in Jensen Beach is Henry Caimotto's backyard. It's also his cause. The Snook Hook owner has fought against Lake Okeechobee water releases into the river since the 1980s.

"Just a normal person that sees it as a total abuse," said Caimotto.

Caimotto says the lake's mixture of fresh water, pollutants and nutrients should be redirected into the Everglades. He says it's turned the river into a graveyard. 

"All the sea grasses, all the oysters, a lot of your insects, anything that is salt water is now dead because it's all fresh. They're all dependent on that salinity level. And they convert it to fresh water, and it dies," said Caimotto.  

To make a point, Caimotto showed me a frozen freshwater bass caught in the brackish St. Lucie River, with lesions on its body. He says that's a direct result of dumping. Stuart native Andrew Hix remembers wanting to touch everything in the river, as a kid.

"The water was clear, so the bottom was all sea grasses. Fish would be swimming around," said Hix.

Now, he wants politicians to stand up and stop the dumping.

"The call of action needs to be right here in the river right now because that's where, in Stuart, the problem really lies," said Hix. "This is happening right here, and people can't eat the fish. Birds can't eat the fish. The whole wildlife system, the whole eco-system, is being torn apart from the water, up."

Caimotto says businesses like his bait and tackle shop suffer from the dumping, too.

"Why, of course it does. Our whole area is marine-related," he said.

Caimotto says redirecting the water is an uphill battle, but he won't give up until he sees a change in his backyard.