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Lake Okeechobee once again covered with Blue-Green Algae

According to NOAA, algae blooms cover nearly 460 square miles of Lake Okeechobee.
Posted at 3:33 PM, Jul 10, 2024

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Another summer, another blue-green algae bloom. Lake Okeechobee is once again covered with hundreds of square miles of blue-green algae.

Look at this video shot by Ralph Arwood over the Lake this past Sunday. Everywhere you look you see the slimy green algae floating on the surface of the lake.

The bloom is so dense that its green hue can even be seen from space in satellite images. According to NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science, the bloom covers 460 square miles of the lake or nearly half.

Captain Chris Wittman, the co-founder of Captains for Clean Water, says these yearly massive blooms on the lake are being fed from years of nutrient pollution entering the lake.

“The result of that is harmful algae blooms, in this case on Lake Okeechobee, Blue-Green Algae which is cyanobacteria,” said Capt. Wittman. “A known liver toxin and research showing it is tied to neurodegenerative diseases.”

But this wasn’t always a problem on the lake.

“Lake Okeechobee naturally, before man put its names on, would flow through the river of grass through the Everglades and into Florida Bay,” said Capt. Wittman. “It no longer can do so; it is compartmentalized, and the water is held back in the Lake.”

For Capt. Wittman and Captains for Clean Water the solution is Everglades restoration and reconnecting the system along with removing barriers to the flow. That is starting to be done with through the construction of the new EAA Reservoirs. But those reservoirs will take years to construct and will likely be delayed further with the ongoing litigation.

“Recent the sugar industry sued the Army Corps of Engineers over that reservoir,” said Capt. Wittman. “So, we do see constant threats to that project, that would give greatest relief to these threats of algae blooms to our coastal communities.”

But even with the new EAA Reserviors and even a new improved operations manual from the army corps later this summer, Capt. Wittman says we could still be dealing with this issue for years to come.

“It’s likely something we will be dealing with for the rest of our lifetime,” said Capt. Wittman. “Science has shown if we were putting in pure clean water into Lake Okeechobee today, then it would take 50 to 100 years to solve the nutrient load problem that’s in the Lake itself today from legacy nutrients.”

At the W.P. Franklin lock, there are signs like this one; warning for blue-green algae. Fox 4 Meteorologist Andrew Shipley did speak to the Army Corps and they say that trace amounts of the algae have been found at the lock. But all the water coming down the river is coming from local basin runoff and not from the lake, as we are still seeing damaging flows down the river from all the recent rain.