MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - If you are flying along the St. Lucie Estuary in a boat on a sunny day, you might miss the spreading worry. But Mary and Dutch Radabaugh do not. They manage St. Lucie Marine and gave me a close look at clusters of toxic green algae spreading in the estuary and far beyond. Environmentalists says huge discharges of nitrogen laden water from Lake Okeechobee are largely to blame.
"It is a big mess," says Mary Radabaugh, "affecting business, home ownership, property values, (and) people can't swim."
Toxic algae alerts are up on Martin County waterways. Waterway bacterial warnings are spreading too, including part of St. Lucie County.
Environmentalists say Everglades restoration is the big answer to avoiding the huge lake discharges in the future. Clean the water from Lake Okeechobee that is polluted. Then move that water into the Everglades as nature designed it, long before man made canals sent it east and west.
Mark Perry is executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said " We need more storage treatment, water coming out of the lake through what is now the Everglades agricultural area, down to the Everglades, very slowly , treating it, storing it before it goes south."
The problem, though, is that the blueprint for restoration seems to be forever bound in red tape. Environmentalists are hopeful, again, that the latest water quality crisis will fast track approval of key pieces of the long promised restoration plan.
Radabaugh has heard it all before. She and so many others want meaningful action. She said, "How do you keep the livelihood of people already in an economic crisis going when you are destroying their main economic engine?"
Urgent questions that Treasure Coast residents say need answers before it is too late.