A senior state legislator has proposed a $2.4-billion response to the toxic algal blooms that fouled estuaries and beaches on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts in July. The blooms prompted bitter complaints from coastal residents, repelled tourists and led Gov. Rick Scott (R) to declare a state of emergency and appeal in vain for federal emergency aid. On Aug. 9, Sen. Joe Negron (R), president-designate of Florida’s state senate, unveiled a plan to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for a 60,000-acre reservoir to store 120 billion gallons of polluted lake water, which currently is discharged to tide when the lake rises to a level that threatens the dike that encloses it.
Agricultural and residential runoff enters Lake Okeechobee via the Kissimmee Basin, carrying nutrients that, under certain conditions, feed a bloom of blue-green algae. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers monitors the lake’s level and operates the controls to discharge lake water when necessary. Discharges go east to the estuary of the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee estuary. Heavy rainfall this summer raised the lake’s level, forcing the Corps to discharge water containing the algal bloom, and the results made headlines throughout the country.