A state of emergency has been declared in Florida over “guacamole-thick” algae that have taken over the state’s “Treasure Coast” beaches.
Residents and business owners are holding the federal government responsible for an algae crisis in Florida caused by freshwater flows controlled by Army officials to protect an erosion-prone dike.
Tourists who have seen reports of the algae that is now spreading to the Atlantic beaches are cancelling their trips to the beachfronts, while fishermen and boaters are calling off their reservations for the same reason.
To help manage levels of the lakes, water is often sent from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River. But this year, heavy rains created higher than normal water levels, so water had to be sent from one river to the other.
The algae blooms are a result of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida's water supply and flood control systems. The lake’s discharges are also being blamed for murky waters on southwest Florida's Gulf Coast.
Now Florida's senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, are calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the flow of water between the river and Lake Okeechobee in order to handle the algae crisis. Nelson has also proposed buying land south of the lake which must be used to store water, in order to stop the discharges.
On June 30, the Corps agreed to start the process of reducing the flow of water from the Lake as Nelson believes the problem goes back to Florida’s years-long history of diverting water to the ocean.
“We need to repair 75 years of diking and draining, but that takes time,” he said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed an amended executive order adding Lee and Palm Beach counties to a previous emergency declaration for Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Rubio on the other hand will pay a visit to the affected areas on June 1.
People are blaming Scott for not doing enough to deal with the pollution in the area. One possible solution would be to purchase land so that lake waters could be stored and cleaned there.
“At one point, I could say to my customers, ‘Come down, it's not at all the beaches,’ because it wasn't toxic. Now we're talking about health issues,” Irene Gomes, owner of the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach, said.
Residents are not only concerned about the smell and unhygienic aspect of the algae, but are also apprehensive of the breathing and health problems that will come along in the near future.
Lawmakers from the Fort Myers area are demanding that Scott must also include Lee County in the areas where emergency has been declared since water issues are evident in the Caloosahatchee River.
More information will only be available once Rubio visits the affected areas and gives a further word regarding what can be done to address the problem.