The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board voted Thursday "to dramatically expand water quality monitoring within the Northern Everglades watersheds and Lake Okeechobee."
This actually was treated as one of the day's Big Stories.
Pardon me for laughing out loud.
Some 97 percent of the water coming into Lake Okeechobee from the north -- particularly from the Kissimmee area -- has already shown the lake's contaminated water originates on the highly developed northwest side of the Everglades' headwaters.
But all of a sudden we're going to do what the Water Management District and many scientists and engineers wanted to do before January, before the sugar-obsessed, south-of-the-lake-obsessed Everglades Foundation was running the show. We're going to focus on measuring water quality in the Northern Everglades, source of Lake Okeechobee's largest pollution inflow.
Which will help "fulfill the initiatives of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force convened by Gov. DeSantis to better understand harmful algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the coastal estuaries in the Northern Everglades," says an upbeat District press release.
(SFWMD has a water-quality video you can watch HERE.)
The program will increase the number of monitoring stations from 161 to 243. SFWMD claims it will monitor water quality across nearly 5.5 million acres, or approximately 8,600 square miles, of Lake Okeechobee and the three Northern Everglades watersheds. Besides adding sampling sites, the Governing Board also increased the frequency of sampling, from monthly to twice a month.
The District also has expanded the parameters of what water quality indicators SFWMD scientists will be measuring, including tracking nitrogen at sites where it was not previously collected and tracking water temperature and dissolved oxygen.
So, we're finally admitting there might be poop in the water?
Within Lake Okeechobee, SFWMD will add 11 new monitoring stations as well as increase the frequency of sampling. Additionally, the parameters for what is being measured, such as algal blooms, will be expanded. And in the 3.5 million-acre watershed that drains into Lake Okeechobee, SFWMD will add 37 new sites as well as increase the frequency of sample collection and number of parameters monitored.
SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss was quick to give the credit to DeSantis.
"The South Florida Water Management District is glad to support Governor DeSantis' ambitious effort to improve water quality in the Everglades with today's vote to expand our water quality monitoring," Goss said in a press statement. "More scientific data leads to better decisions and helps us achieve more now for Florida's environment. That is why we are investing in a robust scientific monitoring infrastructure, so we can have the most complete picture possible of the health of this great ecosystem to make the best possible decisions to restore and protect it."
The District proposes for the St. Lucie Watershed on the east coast, 15 new sites will be added, many of which will measure the local runoff from basins such as the C-23, C-24 and C-44 "that provide a significant amount of the nutrient load reaching the St. Lucie Estuary but had not previously been monitored ..."
In the Caloosahatchee Estuary on the west coast, SFWMD will add 15 new monitoring sites that will sample twice a month "for a wide variety of critical water quality indicators."
Better late than never.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith