Florida has a problem. It's one they've known about for a long time. But no one is doing anything about it. And it's starting to take over.
The problem? An algae bloom invading the St. Lucie river in Stuart, Florida. Stuart is just inside the Atlantic coastline and near Jensen Beach, where this writer is visiting her family. It has already overtaken a small marina and locals are moving their boats out of the water. The smell is so bad many are staying inside. And locals with asthma are moving to stay with friends. Many are wondering if they should just move away altogether.
The first week of July Governor Rick Scott declared states of emergency in Stuart, St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Lee Counties. The algae is dangerous for humans and animals alike. So far, there is no end in sight.
The cause of the algae is an aging dike in Lake Okeechobee. To protect nearby towns from flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers is forced to discharge water. Those discharges carry pollutants from agricultural land. When fresh water hits salt water the result is a giant plume of algae. Blame has been pinned on the dike, agriculture, and the state of Florida's own inability to purchase land and create a runoff. Only one thing is for sure, and that's that there's enough blame to go around. That includes everyone who kept silent for so long while the problem multiplied.
This problem has been a long time in coming, but no one did anything about it, and now local businesses are paying for it. A lot of small towns are tourist driven, but now there are no tourists. Who wants to swim in algae? A local surf shop even reported they will no longer do surf camps for kids, their main source of revenue, because it's too dangerous.
It's possible for a solution to be found. It's a bit late to start looking for one, but better late then never. We have to protect local businesses and wildlife, and it's going to take someone with a backbone to do it. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson both visited the scene and expressed concern. But concern isn't going to help. What's needed is a plan, not making excuses or pointing fingers. And until someone steps up, everybody suffers.