TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is testing a new, innovative way of removing invasive aquatic plants from Lake Okeechobee.
A recent study linked nutrient-rich runoff from Lake Okeechobee to worsening red tide blooms off Florida’s west coast. When the lake gets too full, polluted water is discharged into rivers that flow into the Gulf and Atlantic. The nutrients in the water help feed the harmful algae blooms.
Florida Fish and Wildlife is focusing on physically removing invasive plants from the lake because they can reduce water quality and can make navigation on the lake next to impossible for boaters. Removing the plants involves using a mechanical harvester.
After removing the plants, they’re turning into a semi-liquid mixture that is pumped to nearby fields. It is used to enhance the soil with the extra nutrients we don’t want in the water.
Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit focusing on cleaning up Florida’s waters, is excited that FWC is attempting alternative methods of dealing with these plants. Currently FWC uses a chemical spray to kill the plants, but the dead and decaying plants in the water just release the harmful nutrients right back into the water.
Chris Wittman, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water, told Meteorologist Amanda Holly that, “it is critical we explore every option we can to get away from the chemical dependency and start looking at the added benefits of removing the nutrients from the water.”