Florida’s complex water issues are at the center of heated debate this summer. But let’s face it, this isn’t new; every summer, we witness this green menace resurfacing in our waterways. The blame game will not fix anything; it’s high time we shift our focus toward real solutions.
For years, Lake Okeechobee releases were blamed for the blooms that scientists say can have public health impacts and negative effects on marine life and seagrass growth. Even though there haven’t been any major discharges from the lake this summer, the algae are spreading into the canals, which lead to estuaries on Florida’s East and West Coasts.
We all know hurricanes play a role in exacerbating the problem, stirring up sediments and flooding waterways with sewage and stormwater runoff. The heat of the summer brings massive blooms. It is basic science: sun, warmth, and nutrients create a perfect breeding ground.
What we are also seeing is a glimpse of what the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) operation system is going to look like. We know under LOSOM that the lake will be too high, too often. When the lake is too high the result is an algae-filled lake. That’s exactly what’s happening.
It involves a combination of natural and engineered components, as well as the coordination of various stakeholders and agencies. The infrastructure includes canals, levees, and water control structures, which are designed to regulate water levels in the lake and prevent flooding in our communities.
Every drop of water that falls on Florida is managed through careful planning, monitoring, and decision-making by multiple entities making it a challenging and complex task. It’s a balancing act.
So, it is dishonest that some environmental groups are complaining that not enough water was sent south during the dry season, and it’s disingenuous for those same groups to complain about water releases when lake management capabilities were evident from the start. The governing board deserves credit for doing what it could under the limitations of the programs in place.
There is no one perfect solution. But we don’t need hypocrisy and lies to muddy the waters. Let’s work together to keep improving on this fluid situation.
Nyla Pipes/Executive Director of One Florida Foundation, a non-profit that provides education and proposes solutions regarding Florida’s water resources