Can Development help Algae?
Every water body will be different but in southeast Florida there are a couple options for Lake Okeechobee’s waters. One option has been in discussion for years – buy back the EAA lands and restore the Everglades flow. That has two benefits – improved water quality, and less potential for east-west releases. The downside is cost. But the sugar industry knows that the muck layer is decreasing and there are plans to develop the EAA into hundreds of thousands of housing units. That was not the intention in the 1940s when the EAA was created, but trying to stop someone from developing land, especially when the lake communities are challenged economically, is difficult. Buying the land would remove it from production, but decrease tax revenues. And it would need to be managed with no guarantee that it would cleaned up quickly.
The alternative? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel had a front page article that is a little scary. The figure below is reproduced from that article. The discussion was if there is no conservation/public purchase of land, Florida may look very different. The impact of not buying the land is development. More people. More taxes. More stormwater. The fertilizer does not go away – it now fertilizes lawns and golf courses. Add wastewater, and human activities. We find that urban living and farming can have similar impacts from a nutrient perspective. So development may exacerbate the problem and given that our modeling indicates that sea level rise imperils inland communities from groundwater, this is not a solution to coastal risk. Given limitations with local governments inland, it may create a larger crisis. All there things need discussion, but the question is – will the algal issues on the coast improve?