Year in review: 2021 was a tough year for Florida’s environment

Published: December 31, 2021 6:03 PM EST
Updated: January 1, 2022 9:40 AM EST

Florida is made up of iconic creatures and arteries of waterways which make the Sunshine State unique.

It’s also no stranger to the triumphs and challenges of protecting its environment.

From a record-breaking year for manatee deaths to the leak at the Piney Point, Florida’s environment made headlines throughout 2021.

More than 1,000 manatees have died this year as they starve thanks to huge seagrass die-off in the Indian River Lagoon from pollution.

“There’s just not enough food, so they’re making that agonizing choice to stay there and stay warm and not die from the cold stress, but at the same time, they’re wasting away,” said Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.

Now, as long-term efforts to address water quality issues and restore the habitat are underway, state officials will resort to feeding malnourished manatees romaine lettuce.

On Florida’s west coast, more than 200 million gallons of wastewater from the old Piney Point Fertilizer Plant discharged into Tampa Bay in the springtime.

The Department of Environmental Protection issued Manatee County a permit to inject the wastewater underground.

Many feel the wastewater helped fuel another red tide summer along the Gulf coast.

Many parts of Southwest Florida were spared from the rotting fish and smell. The area also avoided a catastrophic year for blue-green algae with the exception of springtime blooms spotted along the Caloosahatchee in LaBelle and at the Franklin Lock.

While the blooms weren’t widespread, the one at the Franklin Lock was smelly and gave scientists a chance to further study the impact of blooms on our health.

Florida also came one step closer to restoring the Everglades after water managers and advocates celebrated the opening of the C-44 reservoir in Martin County which will clean and restore water.

2021 also marks the year crews completely removed the Old Tamiami Trail roadbed allowing more room for water to flow south toward the Everglades.

While those are just two of the projects underway, they will have to work in symphony with the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual.

The Army Corps narrowed model runs down to one plan, but won’t be complete until late next year.