Lake Okeechobee in a ‘better place this year,’ congressman says

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — As hurricane season begins next week, it’s also when we’re starting to see the potential problem of toxic algae in our waterways.

Blink and you miss the Pahokee Marina sign, the sign that there’s blue-green algae in the water.

You have to look closely, but you can see the fine green wisps.

A year ago it was a different story with thick mats of toxic seaweed everywhere, forcing the marina to close.

“Absolutely unbearable. You couldn’t stand the stench, the smell, let alone imagine being in the water,” said U.S. Representative Brian Mast, R-Florida.

On Tuesday, Mast provided an update on WPTV as weather conditions become more favorable for toxic algae blooms, particularly on Lake Okeechobee where the lake is about 40% covered in toxic algae and is just a little more than 12 and a half feet.

“Right now this level puts us in a decent position to minimize the risk of discards on our coast due to lake levels. We are in a better position this year than we were last year at the same era,” Mast said. .

The Congressman spoke about the importance of the latest Water Resources Development Act making its way through Congress, which authorizes all US Army Corps of Engineers projects and has funding to complete infrastructure north of Lake Okeechobee and the all-important EAA Reservoir south of the lake.

“To store, clean and disperse water south,” Mast said.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s most recent sampling, toxic algae was found at the Pahokee Marina, as well as a few miles north of Canal Point.

No level, however, is considered harmful for human contact. No toxins were found in the last sample taken at Port Mayaca.

Mast said his fight for clean water to prevent discharge from Lake O would get him on the water if needed.

“If they tell us they are going to release toxic water, I will literally anchor my boat at this lock and dam, so they will have to choose whether they are going to sink me on my boat or poison my community,” Mast said.

The congressman is confident that the WRDA bill will pass this summer.

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