07/13/18: Green Algae Flows Out of Lake Okeechobee

Jul 13, 2018

The green, algae infested water is flowing out of Lake Okeechobee again.

Florida’s inland sea — Lake Okeechobee — keeps rising, and the water has to go somewhere even though it’s choked with algae, some of it toxic. The governor declared a state of emergency for surrounding areas and federal dollars are on the way, but not to help directly with the algae.

The green slime has found its way into Florida politics.

Meantime, on the Gulf Coast, a small town is using a state law to help protect it against sea level rise. Is there a lesson for other cities?

And Florida’s massive retirement fund owns stock in Russian companies targeted by the Trump Administration.

Algae Infested Water Released

The floodgates are open with water flowing from the east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

For the next two weeks, water will pour out of the lake into the St. Lucie River to the east and the Caloosahatchee on the west. Billions of gallons of algae infested water will be released as the U-S Army Corps of Engineers works to bring down the lake level.

As the water is released, it brings with it bright green algae - fouling the waterways and marinas.

This week, before the Corps announced its decision to release the water, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in seven counties surrounding the lake and its runoff after visiting the area earlier this week.

The governor is running for U-S Senate against Senator Bill Nelson, who also toured the region and then spoke about it on the Senate floor.

The algae blooms are a reminder of just how interconnected the water of Florida is and how difficult it is to find fixes and the money to address dirty water in the Sunshine State.

Journalists who joined us to discuss the latest developers were:

Jill Roberts, WQCS

Amy Green, WMFE

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald

Small Florida Town Takes On Climate Change

Yankeetown, Florida is a tiny town on the Gulf Coast that may have a big lesson for how communities can protect themselves against the threat of sea level rise.

Over the past generation, the sea level has risen about six inches. It is forecast to raise another six inches in half that time.and maybe as much as six feet by the end of the century.

Florida is the most vulnerable state in the nation. It’s also where the state government banned using the term climate change in official business.

Local communities have been left to make their own plans to protect themselves against higher seas. Miami Beach spent hundreds of millions of dollars on pumps and raising roads. But Yankeetown doesn’t have the resources like Miami Beach.

Amy Green of WMFE reported on it for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Trevor Aronson is the executive director of the center. They joined us with a deeper look.

State Pension Fund Sees Strong Returns

The retirement fund for Florida’s teachers, state, county and local government workers and university employees is on a pretty good run. Its investments have made money nine years in a row. In the most recent year, preliminary data shows almost a nine percent return from its investments. That initial estimate is slightly better than what it aims for.

The fund is invested in all sorts of things on behalf of public workers - stocks, bonds, real estate and foreign companies.

It’s that last category that includes money invested in Russian companies sanctioned by the U-S government, according to Politico Florida.

Matt Dixon with Politico Florida joined us with a look.