With spring coming to a close, school is ending, the temperature is rising — and algae bloom season may have just begun.
Blue-green algae pouring from Lake Okeechobee has been the bane of many Floridians, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says it’s time for the federal government to do something about it.
Nelson released a letter calling on the Senate to include the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project to this year’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).
Nelson says the project would increase water storage and treatment to help lessen the stress on Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding areas.
“It couldn’t be more critical to residents, fishermen, and business owners in South Florida who fear another ‘lost summer’ plagued by toxic algae blooms in their waterways,” Nelson said. “Today, Lake Okeechobee’s water level is at 14.22 feet, approaching the high end of the Army Corps’ preferred management levels, especially as we enter hurricane season.”
The blooms have become a common problem during this time of year. Causing the issue are nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Lake Okeechobee, which helps the blue-green algae grow. When the lake rises high enough, water pours out into nearby waterways, spreading the algae elsewhere throughout the state.
The toxic and foul-smelling algae caused severe problems for the Treasure Coast back in 2016, causing Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in four counties.
Nelson says his proposal would help address the problem — if Congress is willing to approve it.
“Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a favorable report on the project to the Office of Management and Budget, moving it one step closer to being included in the broader water bill that will soon be considered in the Senate,” said his office in a statement backing the EAA project.
Gov. Scott, who is campaigning against Nelson for Senate in 2018, called into question Nelson’s efforts to solve the algae issue. “Under [Scott’s] leadership, Florida has stepped up multiple times to secure state funding for Lake Okeechobee and he championed legislation to accelerate the EAA reservoir,” said Ryan Patmintra, communications director for Scott’s Senate campaign.
“Meanwhile, Nelson dragged his feet for decades and Congress did nothing to fund repairs for the Herbert Hoover Dike. Suddenly showing up just in time for an election year won’t cover up Nelson’s decades of failures on Lake Okeechobee.”
The WRDA is expected to come up for a vote soon, perhaps as early as this month.