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Lake Okeechobee at a 'better place this year,' congressman says

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast
Posted at 3:51 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 15:51:43-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — While hurricane season begins next week, it’s also the time we start to see the potential problem of toxic algae in our waterways.

Blink and you miss the sign at the Pahokee Marina, the sign advising that there is blue-green algae in the water.

You have to look closely, but you can see the thin green strands.

A year ago, it was a different story with thick mats of toxic algae everywhere, forcing the marina to shut down.

"Absolutely unbearable. You couldn’t stand the stench, the smell, much less imagine being in the water," said U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Florida.

Tuesday, Mast gave WPTV an update as the weather conditions become more favorable for toxic algae blooms, especially out on Lake Okeechobee where the lake is about 40% covered in toxic algae and sits at just over 12 and a half feet.

"Right now, that level puts us at a decent place to minimize the risk for the need for discharges into our coast because of lake levels. We’re in a better place this year than we were last year at this time," Mast said.

The congressman talked about the importance of the latest Water Resources Development Act making its way through Congress that authorizes all the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects and has funding to complete infrastructure north of Lake Okeechobee and the all important EAA Reservoir south of the lake.

"To store and clean and disperse water south," Mast said.

According to the most recent sampling by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, toxic algae was found at the Pahokee Marina, as well as a few miles north in Canal Point.

None at levels, though, are considered harmful to human touch. No toxins were found in the latest sample taken at Port Mayaca.

Mast said his fight for clean water to prevent discharges from Lake O will take him out on the water if need be.

"If they tell us they’re going to discharge toxic water, I will literally anchor my boat to that lock and dam so they have to make the choice of whether they will sink me on my boat or poison my community," Mast said.

The congressman is confident the WRDA bill will pass sometime this summer.