$5.2 million in grant funding will be awarded for Lake Okeechobee water quality research
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $5.2 million in grant funding will be awarded to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI).
These efforts are part of Florida’s plans to protect water quality and the state’s natural resources. Water in the lake has a high concentration of nutrients because of runoff from surrounding agricultural lands, urban storm-water reservoirs and septic tanks.
According to Florida Daily, the grant recipients will be using the funding to implement enhanced nutrient removal technologies, water quality monitoring and data sharing and work. The goal is to better understand the environmental conditions and nutrient dynamics in Lake Okeechobee.
“Lake Okeechobee continues to be at the center of many discussions surrounding water quality in Florida, and rightfully so,” said DeSantis. “Lake Okeechobee has far-reaching impacts on Florida’s natural resources. The allocation of more than $5 million in grant funding will ensure our state’s environmental leaders can continue enhancing our ability to monitor and protect water quality and marine life for years to come.”
The grant funding was facilitated through the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Water Policy and Ecosystem Project’s Innovative Grant Program.
The lake is the largest lake in the southeastern United States, making it a vital component of the ecosystem, according to DEP Sec. Noah Valenstein. The grant will also further support research efforts aimed towards preventing harmful algal blooms.
The project, titled the Lake Okeechobee S-191 Basin Surface Runoff Phosphorus Removal Project, will be a three-year project. The SFWMD will be using $3 million in DEP grant funding to reduce Total Phosphorus (TP) loads in the S-191 Basin, using a ferrate TP removal system to help achieve the Total Maximum Daily Load of 105 metric tons per year, as well as associated TP target concentration levels in Lake Okeechobee.
FAU’s Harbor Branch will utilize $2,200,000 in Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant funding for its Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee (HALO). The funds will be used to assemble a state-of-the-art technologies to strengthen harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring efforts, reported Florida Daily.
HALO will include a web-based platform designed by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) for visualizing Lake Okeechobee freshwater HAB bloom intensities and extents. The project will also include a human health study to better understand the relationships between environmental conditions, cyanotoxin exposure, and human health.