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The Public’s Right to Fish and Boat on Florida's Fisheating Creek

Fisheating Creek.

Fisheating Creek is a major tributary of Lake Okeechobee, and is a wild and scenic waterway which courses through prairie, cypress swamps, and marshes.

Tom Turner / Earthjustice

Case Overview

Earthjustice has represented conservationists in over two decades of legal disputes with agribusiness giant Lykes Brothers, Inc. over the public’s right to fish and boat on one of South Florida’s wildest waterways, Fisheating Creek in Glades County. The creek is a major tributary of Lake Okeechobee, and is a wild and scenic waterway which courses through prairie, cypress swamps, and marshes.

The fight to maintain the public’s right to use Fisheating Creek began in 1989, when Lykes felled cypress trees across the creek’s navigation channel and posted “No Trespassing” signs claiming that the creek was not navigable. After several rounds of litigation by conservationists and the state, a jury concluded that Fisheating Creek is navigable, effectively ordering Lykes to stop blocking boaters from using the creek. Much of the dispute concerned whether there was an historic, navigable channel in the cypress swamps and marshes formerly used by boaters.

A new legal battle started in the fall of 2012, when Lykes claimed that the state was improperly handling a marsh channel restoration project. After intense lobbying by Lykes, the Florida DEP announced its plan to use $3 million in taxpayer money to build roads and “staging areas” across the marsh so that 3,300 dump trucks could transport sand—supplied by Lykes—into the creek bed.

Case ID

2311, 2442

Related Features

B-Roll: Florida's Cowbone Marsh

A short video of Cowbone Marsh, taken on August 18, 2012. This is the part of Fisheating Creek that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is planning to fill with 50 million pounds of sand, cutting off the public’s access.

A Snake in the Kitchen

Monica Reimer, an attorney in the Tallahassee office, writes about the only jury trial in the history of Earthjustice, an ultimately successful attempt to keep in public ownership a south Florida jewel known as Fisheating Creek.

Case Updates

July 8, 2013 | In the News: Capital Soup

Citizens Win in Legal Ruling Over Public’s Right to Boat and Fish on Fisheating Creek

Earthjustice secured a victory this week when an administrative judge in Florida ruled that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could not restrict the public’s boating access to Fisheating Creek, a wild and scenic waterway in South Florida’s Glades County. The DEP had planned to allow the agribusiness corporation Lykes Bros. Inc. to discharge thousands of dump-truck loads of sand into Fisheating Creek, permanently blocking the public’s navigation channel.