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Leaders from six counties meet in Okeechobee to show unity in finding toxic algae solutions

Posted: 10:33 PM, May 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-08 08:52:32Z
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County leaders and community members from six area counties met at Okeechobee High School Tuesday night to talk about a topic passionate to all of them: Lake Okeechobee.

The meeting did not bring up new solutions or plans of action. It served more to send a message that all of the counties are on the same team, not pitting against each other in the search for solutions to clean up local waterways.

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Palm Beach, Martin, Glades, Hendry, Okeechobee and Collier County leaders were in attendance.

All agree they do not want to see toxic blue-green algae threatening the Treasure Coast and west coast waterways, crushing the economy, tourism and recreation.

They also agree they do not want to put other communities around the lake at risk for flooding from holding too much water in the lake or dropping the lake level too low that water supplies and irrigation needs are put at risk.

“We can work on the problem,” said Hendry County resident Janet Taylor. “This is something we’ve hoped for a long time. For all the area commissions to get together to work on a common cause.”

Glades county resident Val Douglas wanted to come to this meeting knowing lake levels might be discussed.

“We were really concerned about this one and wanted to come,” Douglas said.

She lives along a canal and says it’s already too low for boating in her canal.

The lake level is currently around 11.24 feet.

While some are pushing for the Lake Okeechobee level to be dropped even lower to 10.5 feet, Douglas said she felt of the communities represented Tuesday night, there was not strong support for dropping the lake too much lower.

“I want to see them not bring the level to 10.5,” Taylor agreed.

That will be an ongoing discussion.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds said dropping the lake below 12 feet this dry season did help some seagrass recover while still keeping salinity levels in safe ranges.

Moving forward with the discussion, county leaders say they will work together in this strengthened partnership to work toward mutually beneficial goals.

“A number that is not going to put our communities in danger,” Taylor said.