“Reeking Algae Closes South Florida Beaches” was the title to an article written in the New York Times newspaper on Sat. July 2, 2016, regarding the green and blue algae that is covering the waters surface near houses in Stuart, Florida. The algae which also has a very bad smell to nearby homeowners is created by discharges of water from lake Okeechobee which is located 35 miles inland near Clewiston. Scientists and citizens blame the environmental hazard on the lack of action by state and federal leaders to find a way to send Lake Okeechobee’s rising water levels south towards Everglades National Park where it historically went.
Persons interviewed for this article say Big Agriculture in Florida is largely to blame for the algae build up in the lake because of the fertilizers and chemicals spayed on their crops which eventually find their way in the states lakes and rivers. The watershed surrounding the lake and the Kissimmee River which brings much of the nutrient laden water from farms brings excess nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals which cause the algae growth. Billions of gallons of water from the lake are discharged every year to the east via the St. Lucie River and west through the Caloosahatchee River. Beaches, rivers and canals on both coasts have been adversely affected by these water releases especially this year since Florida received abnormally high levels of rain in the winter months. City leaders, homeowners, businesses and environmentalists have been crying foul for much of the year as our waterways have become unusable due to the algae growth and slime. They also blame state and federal leaders for not doing enough to prevent this environmental disaster by refusing to purchase land south of the lake from U.S. Sugar when they had the chance so it could be used as a reservoir for some of these water discharges.
The National Park Service has a website which explains the cleanup efforts of the Everglades and nearby areas which is costing over $10 Billion dollars. Critics say the restoration of areas around lake Okeechobee is going too slow and is not effective in stopping the pollution of the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and the towns and beaches they impact. The South Florida Water Management District which is also responsible for water resources and for flood protection also has some good information about the current wetland restoration strategies they are implementing.