Amid the alarming rate of pollution in the Lake Okeechobee in South Florida is emerging as the big environmental problem, the political class has decided to tackle the severe issue at the earliest.
Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, visited the affected areas last month and proposed spending a total of $130 million for two separate projects. As the damages were very intense, the chorus for resolving the issue grew louder in the political corridors.
The situation has worsened for the natives during rainy days after the polluted water was released along to estuaries to the east and west.
Lake Okeechobee is bordered on the south by agricultural fields and communities that depend on them. The polluted waters wreck havoc on the people living along the bank.
After heavy rains this summer, officials decided to release some of the lake’s polluted water into estuaries rather than test its dike. As the lake waters at their limit, there were only two choices left with the administration. One was to risk breaching the 143-mile dike, a potential catastrophe to the agricultural tracts south of the lake and the small communities that depend on them. The other was to release billions of gallons of polluted water into delicate estuaries to the east and west. After the guidelines made post-Hurricane Katrina, the second option was chosen. This resulted with overwhelm of St. Lucie River estuary in the east and Caloosahatchee River in the west.
The rush of fresh water along with the pollutants carried in from farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses. A breeding ground for marine life, estuaries are crucial to the ecosystem. As algae caused by pollutants quickly spread and fresh water overpowered saltwater, oysters died in droves. Manatees, shellfish and the sea grasses and reefs that help sustain the estuaries all were badly hit.
“These coastal estuaries cannot take this,” said Mark D. Perry, the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, based in Stuart. “Enough is enough. This cannot continue to happen. These estuaries are so important to us, our environment and our economies.”