Ready for a toxic algae ‘superbloom’ on Lake O this spring?

Toxic blue-green algae blooms on Lake Okeechobee are becoming a yearly occurrence. And this year’s bloom could be a doozy.

Both federal and state officials are predicting a major bloom on the lake this spring, due in part to Hurricane Ian, which churned up muck and “legacy” nutrients, increased turbidity and created ideal conditions for algae to thrive once the weather gets reliably warmer.

We could see a repeat of 2018, when a “superbloom” covered 90% of the lake in the wake of Hurricane Irma the year before. Toxic algae-laden discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, coupled with a red tide on the east and west coasts and the panhandle, turned 2018 one of the most environmentally damaging years in Florida’s history.

Could we see a repeat in 2023? With another “superbloom” possible, and red tide lingering in the Gulf, things don’t look good.

So in an effort to lower the lake and reduce the need for algae-laden discharges this spring, the Army Corps began discharging to the St. Lucie last month, and continued discharges to the Caloosahatchee. But discharges now don’t necessarily prevent discharges later.

Meanwhile, they’re inflicting harm on both estuaries. The Caloosahatchee needs less water, the St. Lucie needs NO lake water. The water MUST go south, but as always, capacity in the taxpayer-funded stormwater treatment areas is reserved for Big Sugar/Big Agriculture.

Even the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir — which won’t be done for nearly a decade, and even then may not be able to operate at full capacity — won’t end the discharges. ONLY more water storage south of the lake can prevent another 2018.

Virtually no one is talking about this. If we get hit with another algae crisis — that will change. People will be angry. And they’ll have a right to be.

They’ll ask — why are we still tolerating this? Why aren’t we sending more water south? Why aren’t we buying more land now?

And as always, the answers will be fumbling, insufficient, “yes, but…”

Enough. No need to wait for the toxic slime to flow; tell your legislators harmful discharges aren’t acceptable, now OR later. And consider a donation to VoteWater to help amplify our call to end the threat of another “lost summer” — once and for all.