NewsProtecting Paradise


Martin County businesses don't want Lake Okeechobee discharges

Posted at 4:58 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 17:09:29-04

STUART, Fla. — Congressman Brian Mast sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking him to get the Army Corps of Engineers to see firsthand the algae situation brewing in the area around Lake Okeechobee.

The St. Lucie Lock remains closed.

The Army Corps said last week they hope they don't have to open the Lock until September keeping any potentially toxic algae from the St. Lucie Estuary.

Mother nature though could force changes if the lake level stays too high for the Corps of Engineers.

Meanwhile, some people whose livelihood depends on clean water are hoping things can be done without toxic discourse.

In two decades of owning the Indiantown Marina, Scott Watson said he’s seen algae plenty of times.

"The algae itself, the physical presence of algae hasn’t really caused us any problems at all. Most of the time it comes and goes,” said Watson.

As someone who owns two waterfront businesses and a waterfront home, Watson knows cool clean water is important, but he’s concerned the rhetoric surrounding algae is too hot.

“The message being sent out to the rest of the world that the water in Florida, the water in Lake O is poison. It’s gotten to a level so high that it’s actually hurting our economy,” said Watson.

"And it’s great that the dry season has extended a little bit longer,” added John Maehl, Martin County’s ecosystems manager.

Maehl said the lake’s recession rate has been good, and there’s a chance it could get down to 13-feet by the end of the month. That’s still a half foot higher than what the Corps likes at the start of hurricane season.

“The lake is still too high this time of year, and we’re concerned about the amount of algae that’s already bloomed,” he said.

An algae sample taken on the canal side of the Port Mayaca lock last week tested positive for microcystin at a level more than twice what’s considered safe to touch.

Sample test results taken upstream in the C-44 last week are still pending.

“Guys let’s keep cool heads and let’s let the facts prevail," said Watson.

Watson said there are a number of projects still under construction, and under consideration, that can help with future releases from the lake.

“Got the C-44 project set to come online. There’s been a lot of experiments being done on how to treat the algae. One was done last year at the Port Mayaca lock using ozone nano bubbles,” he said.

While there hasn’t been, and may never be, a magic solution to the algae situation, any improvements would be welcomed heading into an uncertain summer.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection created an Algal Bloom Dashboard where residents can report algal blooms and view results of samplings.