SWFL neighbors hopeful about DeSantis algae task force

Homeowners in Southwest Florida who had to deal with hazardous blue-green algae in 2018 want a permanent fix to the mucky bacteria that has hurt tourism and livelihoods of neighbors alike along the Gulf coast.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the first executive order of his term to secure $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and creating a blue-green algae task force to help stop large outbreaks Thursday.

“It seems like he’s being very proactive and aggressive,” Joanna Kreise said. “And I’m happy to see that. That is why we elected him into the office to begin with hopes that he would do just this.”

Just a few months ago, local canals were filled with blue-green algae, something neighbors don’t want to see in their backyards again. Kreise’s canal was filled with algae for most of the summer in 2018.

“It was a lost year,” Kreise said. “I lost a year of using our backyard. We couldn’t use our backyard. We couldn’t be outside.”

These are homeowner experiences DeSantis wants to prevent from happening in the state in 2019.

“Something drastic has to happen,” Kreise said. “No more putting Band-Aids on it and hoping for something to happen for the best.”

Roger Barlow hopes this announcement prevents his North Fort Myers canal from being polluted by the blue-green algae again.

“Seems like he was kind of on the same wavelength as the rest of us around here,” Barlow said. “And this was just crazy to let it be nasty and screwing up the state’s business.”

A permanent solution will take years, but changes will begin in the near future, as DeSantis works alongside the Jacksonville District US Army Corps of Engineers to see if it’s possible to release less water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River, which has been at least one cause for blue-green algae locally.

Kreise said the algae became a hazard in her backyard, causing her daughter to become sick and have trouble breathing.

“It will be interesting to see how quickly this is done,” Kreise said. “And we want to see continued progress.”

 

Reporter:Brendon Leslie
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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