Palm Beach Post: Quick fix for Lake O algae woes uses land now roamed by cows

Article Posted on July 21, 2018

By: Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post

Thriving ranch land in the belly of the Indian Prairie Basin will soon be a pool of nutrient-bombed water as Florida looks at temporary fixes for the algae woes of Lake Okeechobee and the northern estuaries.

The Brighton Valley Project, which was approved this month by the South Florida Water Management District, will take water thick with algae-loving fertilizer and agriculture runoff, clean it, and send it into Lake Okeechobee with 70 percent less phosphorous and 35 percent less nitrogen.

Slated for 8,200 acres of privately-owned land now roamed by Angus cattle, the project will cost $11.5 million, and it will take about a year to complete.

It is the second of six planned public-private water storage and cleaning projects meant to act as quick patches to lessen nutrient levels in Lake Okeechobee and reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries while permanent Everglades restoration projects are underway.

The Lake O discharges, which have been intermittent since June 1, are partly blamed for harmful blue-green algae infecting the brackish estuary waterways this summer.

“We think this is a good step forward. It maintains the land, but doesn’t require you to buy the land,” said Martha Musgrove, Florida Wildlife Federation’s southern region director, during a June 12 water district meeting. “You are setting the bar, and the bar has been high, but it’s not so high you can’t jump over it and succeed.”

In 2016, when another algae bloom slimed the Treasure Coast following water releases from Lake Okeechobee, state lawmakers set aside about $48 million for the construction of water projects that partner with private land owners in the northern Everglades…

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