Green may be in for St. Patrick’s Day, but for Florida’s estuaries and coastlines- it’s bad news. Normally, the stretch of coast between Martin County and Indian River County is referred to as the Treasure Coast, but lately it’s better known as the Guacamole Coast. Last summer beaches were shut down due to massive algal blooms and polluted discharges pumped out of Lake Okeechobee and into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The toxic algal sludge was so bad that businesses closed, people got sick, and plenty of fish and animals died. Determined to avoid another lost summer for the Treasure Coast, Senate President Joe Negron and Senator Rob Bradley proposed a plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to help stave off discharges and provide much needed water for the Everglades and Florida Bay. Recently the proposal has undergone dramatic, controversial amendments- we’ll spare you the gory policy details, but we remain hopeful that the Florida Legislature can create a viable plan to adequately store water south of Lake Okeechobee, while providing improved hydrology for the Everglades and Florida Keys.
With so many beach closures last summer, it’s more important now than ever for Florida to make sure its beaches are safe for swimming and recreating. Unfortunately, Florida spends zero dollars on water quality monitoring for its recreational beaches. Florida's water quality monitoring program, the Florida Healthy Beaches Program, has relied exclusively on federal funds through the EPA's BEACH Act since 2011. Unfortuntaely, depending on the EPA for funding is risky business these days. It's hard to believe, but the state that spends $78 million dollars for Visit Florida to bring in tourists doesn’t spend a dime to make sure they don’t get sick when they go swimming. That's why we're asking the Florida Legislature to step up and fully fund the Florida Healthy Beaches Program. Read more here.