Algae on minds of Martin County leaders, residents as wet season approaches

Algae on minds of Martin County leaders, residents as wet season approaches

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Any green in the water at Sunset Estates Marina right now is just a reflection of a bright-green boat, but that wasn’t the case in summer 2018.

"It wasn’t even green. It got to a point where it started to turn blue," said Conner Ravelo, who lives in North River Shores.

“There was a bunch of dead fish. There was this one really big one down over there in the trees," said Reed Robinson, who also lives in the neighborhood.

People all around the St. Lucie River have algae on their minds as summer approaches.

"I think everyone who lives in this area has worries," Ravelo said.

“It’s in our conscious every moment, so if it does come up, we’ll be responding to it as quickly as possible," said John Maehl, Martin County ecosystem division manager.

Martin County leaders have been working throughout the dry season to prepare for the wet season. They already have people out monitoring the water, health warning signs from 2018 are ready to deploy, and the county is making changes to their pesticide program.

“We’ve committed to not applying it to surface water any longer to treat things like water lettuce," Maehl said.

However, what’s typically out of the county’s control seems to be under control right now, with Lake Okeechobee at 11 feet, compared to 13 feet at this time last year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharged water in February in hopes of preventing releases during the summer while algae is more likely to be present.

“We’re fairly certain there will be blooms on Lake Okeechobee again this year. It’s almost a certainty. The conditions are very good for it," Maehl said. "However, we’re also much, much better poised for not having significant harmful discharges.”

Under the federal Water Resources Development Act of 2018, USACE got funding to investigate harmful algae blooms, including identifying strategies for early detection, prevention and management to reduce algae blooms and their effects.

“I think all of us around here just hoping they can find a solution that works for everybody," Ravelo said.

"The new governor and how the legislature has responded to his initiatives: the WRDA bill, the Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual, it’s all we’re talking about," Maehl said.

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