The satellite image above from June 11, 2023, presages a grim tale. The algal bloom seen here covers an estimated 440 square miles of Lake Okeechobee which, amazingly, NOAA describes as a decrease from the day before.
At just over 14 feet, Lake Okeechobee is higher than anyone is comfortable with at the start of Florida’s rainy season. Comparable levels in past years have led to many billions of gallons of harmful releases to the northern estuaries. Paired with the current concentration of algae in the lake, there’s a concerning likelihood we’re headed toward another toxic summer.
Friends of the Everglades spent more than three years fighting for a new lake management plan, LOSOM, that considers the risks of toxic algae. We succeeded in getting the Army Corps of Engineers to acknowledge that risk, thanks to your support — but implementation of the plan has been delayed until December, due to a last-minute review launched by National Marine Fisheries Service. That said, LOSOM won’t be a panacea even after it takes effect. As long as the sugarcane industry gets priority access to the system of stormwater treatment areas south of the lake, there will be limited alternatives to blasting the coasts with toxic water when the lake gets too high.
Science tells us there are immediate health risks to people and pets from exposure to toxic algae. The growing body of evidence suggests an association between algae toxins and long-term neurological diseases. Impacted residents have a right to proactive and collaborative communication from local leaders, health departments and water managers to keep them informed and safe as we continue to work towards long-term solutions.
With your support, Friends of the Everglades will continue to push for critical public-health information. You can count on us to be a frequent and knowledgeable source of information throughout the algae crisis that may be ahead. Only through your continued generosity is this work possible, so please consider making a contribution today.