What we hope for most here is an absence of politics and a sincere effort to remedy the sources, not just address the symptoms.
This is a hard task fraught with political forces because it will hit people in the pocketbook who will be in denial. It will hit agriculture and developers who will scream bloody murder, jobs and money.
Plans must be made to help these industries, but the pollution must be stopped at whatever cost.
Florida is probably not ready for that yet, but ready or not, our resources are going.
Read the original article here in TC Palm.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Task Force embarking on a journey to stop toxic algae
Jordon Beckler talks about the Navocean Nav2 on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, an autonomous sailboat to be used for monitoring algae in Lake Okeechobee. Eric Hasert, [email protected]
Early last June, it began.
The first tendrils of fluorescent green cyanobacteria began to line up in windrows just off the eastern shoreline of Florida’s largest lake.
A month later, the bloom of toxic algae, harmful to humans and containing an amino acid linked to liver and motor-neuron diseases, nearly blanketed all of Lake Okeechobee’s 730 square miles. Compounding the issue, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to discharge lake water east and west into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River to protect the safety of residents in the communities surrounding the lake’s rim.
What followed was ecological devastation and an environmental catastrophe.
Since taking office in January, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been marching toward a Florida best known for clean water, good fishing and fun boating excursions.
Earlier this week, he named five people to a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, a cast of scientific Avengers, at Hobe Sound’s Nathanial P. Reed National Wildlife Refuge.
The Task Force consists of some of Florida’s premier harmful algae bloom researchers and are connected to, or direct, five of the state’s foremost research institutions.
The team will work under the direction of Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, a position created and announced by DeSantis in early April.
Frazer begins his new role Monday. Frazer and his team will work alongside the Department of Environmental Protection.
The Task Force is:
- Wendy Graham — The Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and director of the Water Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
- Evelyn Gaiser — Executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society and professor of biology at Florida International University in Miami.
- Michael Parsons — Professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station in Fort Myers.
- James Sullivan — Executive director of Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce and an expert on marine ecosystem health.
- Valerie Paul — Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce.
Following the governor’s announcement Monday, First Lady Casey DeSantis praised the move and explained the governor’s motivation.
“We have a 2-year-old and 1-year-old,” she said. “We talked about leaving our environment to God better than we found it. We feel an obligation as parents and we feel we should work on behalf of all the parents of this great state to make sure their children have a clean environment and clean water to grow up on.”
Already there are signs of the same cyanobacteria, microcystis aeruginosa, gathering and blooming in Alva, on the freshwater side of the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee River, on the west side of Lake Okeechobee.
While the task force members could not say for certain when or where they would start to address the nearly annual problem of algae blooms in Florida waters, they know there are several components of the problem they will attempt to address.
“There’s a lot that has to be dealt with,” explained James Sullivan of Harbor Branch, whose scientific training is working with harmful algae blooms. “There has always been algae in freshwater in Florida, but these blooms are becoming more and more severe every year, and it has been a relatively new development for Lake Okeechobee.”
Sullivan said there are steps to the process to begin to clean Florida’s waterways:
“We know there are nutrient loads to the lake,” Sullivan said. “We need to identify what the current sources are, what the current plans are to stop those, or to develop plans to do so, and what is the biology behind it all.”
Sullivan said he is excited to be a part of the Task Force. He thinks it is the best way to address the problems and fix them.
“It really is the way to do this,” Sullivan said. “You need differing opinions in the science world to advance the research and solve problems.”
DeSantis said the task force will:
- Identify opportunities to fund priority projects with state, local and federal funding;
- Build on DEP’s updated Basin Management Action Plans;
- View and provide the largest and most meaningful nutrient reductions in key waterways.
Gaiser is hopeful this team can make progress quickly.
“There have been decades of research done on the water problems in South Florida, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee,” Gaiser said. “This team is coming in with a backdrop of knowledge we can build off of including the incredible work that has been done just in the last few years to address this most recent extreme bloom.”
It’s a launch pad, she said.
“The reconstructed South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors, among other changes by the governor, give us great hope,” Gaiser said.
Parsons said the solution to these problems will involve a collaboration of more than just the task force members and their institutions.
“Bring in the public input and their interests …,” he said.
Parsons believes the work at hand will be based on priorities.
“We have to lay the ground rules on how we’re going to identify problem areas, identify projects, find a way to prioritize those and then how to hand the ball off to (DEP Secretary) Noah (Valenstein) in terms of funding,” Parsons said. “I don’t even know if we’ll be involved with that part of it.”