The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a plan to create a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce toxic discharges, clearing a path for Congress to include funding for the project in the Water Resources and Development Act.
The approval came a day before the Corps began releasing polluted water from the lake to remove stress from the aging levee.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called the Corps’ approval of the reservoir project good news in the fight against algae blooms, according to TC Palm.
“The Army Corps just approved the EAA reservoir project that will help clean more water from Lake Okeechobee and send it south, instead of east and west,” Nelson said on Twitter. “Now with Corps’ OK, we can work to get this project approved by Congress this year.”
The House approved the WRDA bill in June, with a placeholder for the reservoir pending Corps approval, which means the project can be added to the bill, according to TC Palm.
WRDA is pending Senate approval. Because its version of the bill also has a placeholder for the reservoir, that language must be replaced with the actual authorization prior to a vote, which is expected later this month.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association is asking stakeholders to reach out to members of Congress to request approval of the project.
The Army Corps’ decision to begin releasing polluted water has residents on both coasts concerned about a possible repeat of 2016’s toxic algae blooms, according to a story in the Miami Herald.
“The Corps is attempting to avoid exacerbating the problem by repeating a strategy from 2016 — releasing the water in small batches over the next two weeks to simulate rainfall events,” the Herald story stated. “The idea is that the technique limits the usual impacts of the influx of nutrient-dense water — massive, stinky algae blooms that kill fish and wreck tourism — by allowing in salt water to kill the algae.
“Moving around the nutrient-dense lake water, fouled by runoff from septic tanks, ranches and sugar farms, is something like a game of hot potato,” the newspaper said.
This video shows two different kinds of satellite images of Lake Okeechobee taken in June and July of 2018, each showing time series from when the bloom began to the most recently available image. The images are created from data collected by a European Union satellite that makes a pass over the lake on a daily basis. The image on the left shows a true-color image, which is what you would see if looking down onto the lake from space. The image on the right is derived from an experimental product developed by Richard Stumpf from the NOAA National Ocean Service. The computer program takes the data showing reflected light across the visible spectrum, focuses only on that light range reflected by blue-green algae, and then produces a map showing the estimated density of blue-green algae cells in the lake. This new product is under development and has been tested through extensive ground truthing by the South Florida Water Management District in partnership with NOAA. SFWMD has been taking counts of blue-green algae in water samples and comparing those with estimates from the satellite tool in order to fine tune those estimates. Watching both maps through time is useful because there is at least one day where it looks like the bloom diminished in size, but it was simply cloud cover blocking a clear view of the entire lake.