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Lake Okeechobee Blue-Green Algae Outbreak Forecasted in Coming Months

Toxic blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are ancient organisms. Scientists say they have been on Earth for about 3.5 billion years.
Posted at 3:38 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 05:30:00-05

MOORE HAVEN, Fla. — Expect a summer of slime. That is what environmental groups, like the Friends of the Everglades, are calling a forecasted blue-green algae outbreak on Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corps of Engineers.

While all eyes are on the red tide blooms along Southwest Florida’s beaches, blue-green algae outbreak on Lake Okeechobee continuing down the Caloosahatchee River could bring its own set of water issues this wet season.

And while wet season is still a few months away, Friends of the Everglades Executive Director Eve Samples says lake levels are about 16 feet, which is a foot higher than this time last year. She adds that Hurricane Ian and Nicole added runoff to the lake, increasing nutrients that Blue-Green Algae feeds on.

“It brought all the runoff from surrounding areas,” said Samples. “Nutrient pollution such as phosphorus and nitrogen. It also caused some submerged aquatic vegetation to die off because the lake rose faster than the submerged aquatic vegetation could grow.”

That dead vegetation will add nutrients to the lake as they decompose.

Blue green algae is already being detected on the Lake near Port Maraca Lock and Dam in Martin County. This sparked a Department of Health alert for harmful algal toxins in February, after trace amounts were found near the dam.

The Army Corps releases Lake Okeechobee water through a lock and dam into the Saint Lucie River. They also have been releasing water into the Caloosahatchee River to keep dry season salinity levels at the optimum level.

Blue Green Algae has yet to be detected near the Moore Haven Lock and Dam along Lake Okeechobee, or elsewhere in Southwest Florida this year.