blue-green algae

Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald

A plan to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee was approved by federal budget officials on Tuesday, as part of an effort to reduce blue-green algae blooms on Florida's coasts.

The roughly $1.6 billion dollar reservoir project will now pass from the White House Office of Management and Budget to the U.S. Senate, where it's expected to be funded as part of a water resources bill.

Tourism, fishing and public health are being threatened by contaminants discoloring stretches of beaches at the southern end of the Florida peninsula.

Martin County Health Department

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven counties experiencing blue-green algae blooms, including Palm Beach County.

The blooms are in large part due to water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. They can cause fish die-offs and respiratory irritation in humans. And it's not the first time the foul-smelling blooms have prompted an emergency declaration: in the summer of 2016, at the peak of the July tourist season, the blooms closed beaches and fishing businesses.

Smack in the middle of the Florida peninsula, Lake Okeechobee, one of the largest lakes in the U.S., has a nagging problem. Nearly every year now, large blooms of algae form in the lake.

On a recent visit, even Steve Davis, a senior ecologist with the Everglades Foundation, was surprised.

"Oh my gosh," he exclaimed, "look how thick this blue-green mat is right here."

Worries Bloom Over Lake Okeechobee Algae

Jun 25, 2018

There are new fears about algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants discharges of polluted water out of Lake Okeechobee redirected elsewhere.

NASA JOHNSON / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it will begin releasing water Friday from Lake Okeechobee because of concerns over rising water levels.

While it's not unusual to discharge water during periods of heavy rain, it is unusual to start this early in the summer. 

"Historic rain across the region since the middle of May has caused the lake to rise more than a foot," said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander, in a press release. "We have to be prepared for additional water that could result from a tropical system."

USGS via Wikimedia Commons

A reservoir project that could help address water challenges in the Everglades is one step closer to being built.

Congressional committees on Thursday approved a bill that, if passed, would authorize construction of a $1.4 billion water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The reservoir would help reduce water discharges from Lake Okeechobee that contribute to algae blooms on Florida’s coasts; it would also increase water flow south to Florida Bay.

Kate Stein / WLRN

In Florida, poop in the water is... a problem we all live with.