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Water Quality Report: Global warming, or not, and the fine line DeSantis is walking

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed a bill allocating $750 million for a revenue-sharing agreement on gambling proceeds with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and he detailed that much of the money is going to projects to repair parts of the environment and to prepare other parts for the effects of sea-level rise and other changes due to global warming while having said: "I am not in the pews of the church of global warming. Do put that label on me."
Carlton Ward, Jr.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed a bill allocating $750 million for a revenue-sharing agreement on gambling proceeds with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and he detailed that much of the money is going to projects to repair parts of the environment and to prepare other parts for the effects of sea-level rise and other changes due to global warming while having said: "I am not a global warming person. I don't want that label on me."


 It was a long story, and it took me a while.

For far longer than my editor would have liked, I wrote about how Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis allocated to environmental needs nearly all of the annual $750 million the state is going to receive in a gambling-share deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

(I guess we non-Native Americans do not make enough money from the lottery, scratch-off tickets, poker rooms, piped-in horse races on TVs from faraway places at Florida’s old dog tracks, online betting, and, in fact, in taxes generated by big winners at the Seminole casinos.)

The length of time spent on the story was necessary because it is important to explore for two reasons.

One was to explain where all that money was going. Too often due to time constraints, we will mention someone spending a big pile of taxpayer money on such-and-such, but then not break it down. I did that this time because it was important to know both for what it was and was not earmarked.

Second, factions in our fractured society can chew on the specifics and decide how they feel about the spending. Some may think there was too much spent on what they consider global-warming nonsense, while others may hold an opposite view about climate change they consider real. OK, have at it.

An important point for politicos on the entire spectrum, and we speak to them all, is how often DeSantis sends taxpayer dollars to the Everglades restoration to fund blue-green algae research and task forces and develop infrastructure and other ways to deal with ever-rising seas during a time when many people believe there is global warming causing a lot of what ills Florida, but others don’t: including DeSantis.

On the same day Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his presidential bid he signed into law a bill that one environmental group called
Phil Sears/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has decided where to spending $750 million on the environment

"I am not in the pews of the church of the global warming leftists," DeSantis said at a campaign stop in 2018. “I am not a global warming person. I don't want that label on me."

The story mentioned the governor’s self-proclaimed serious commitment to funding efforts to combat the present or future problems with water quality a low-lying state like Florida will encounter when, for example, sea level rises just a little more and threatens South Florida’s largest supply of drinking water – the Everglades.

To those who believe South Florida will be threatened by climate change, the governor is spending money judiciously. For example, the science is indisputable that saltwater intrusion from below is creeping in to fill the empty bottom caverns and spaces of the over-pumped freshwater aquifers. Soon, many climate researchers believe freshwater in the River of Grass will be overtopped by saltwater gushing in from the Atlantic Ocean at high tide.

To those who do not believe global warming is anything other than a natural process, perhaps sped up a little, but the state of the economy is far more important right now, it may be helpful to know DeSantis is not just sitting on the fence but walking the fine line at the top.

That is quite the balancing act. At risk are Florida’s water quantity and quality, the environmental health of the lower half of the state, and the potential flooding out of low-lying beach towns on barrier islands making them uninhabitable. Or not.

That is the value of digging deep into the numbers sometimes: Black-and-white information, to be interpreted as you see fit.


Still no red tide detected anywhere in South Florida.

That means no fish kills from red tide, no coughing by the beach from red tide, and no other type of respiratory irritation reported in Florida over the past week related to red tide.

‘nuff said.


The story with the potentially smelly and slimy, harmful algae bloom is quite different, but far from the worse the region has experienced at times during the last decade.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued multiple advisories for blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River or the canals just off of it.

The most recent is for the Palace Grande Canal, which is just north of Jaycee Park in Cape Coral, and the Winkler Road Canal near the Whiskey Creek area. There is another blue-green algae advisory for the Walpole Canal, but it’s not showing up on any map I checked so if you know where it is give me a call and I’ll put your name in my next Water Quality Report.

Blue-green algae is only partially understood, but it can emit toxins, look awful, smell awful, and can kill your dog if Fido swims in water full of the toxin so don’t let him.

Obviously, do not drink, swim, wade, water ski, or engage in activities that may cause you to come in direct contact with waters where there is a visible bloom, and for goodness' sake do not get any water with blue-green algae in it up your nose or in your mouth.

If you get some on you wash with soap and water and promise yourself you’ll never do that again.

Previously, the FDOH issued advisories due to blooms n the Southeast 23rd Street canal and along Southeast 11th Place, as well as two more from the waters around the Alva and Davis boat ramps, so if you are in those areas keep a watchful eye out for green water. If you see any, be safe and go somewhere else.

What is red tide?

Red tide is one type of harmful algal bloom caused by high concentrations of the toxic dinoflagellate K. brevis, which is a type of microscopic algae found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Red tide typically forms naturally offshore, commonly in late summer or early fall, and is carried into coastal waters by winds and currents. Once inshore, these opportunistic organisms can use nearshore nutrient sources to fuel their growth.

Blooms typically last into winter or spring, but in some cases, can endure for more than one year.

Is red tide harmful?

K. brevis produces potent neurotoxins that can be harmful to the health of both wildlife and people. Wind and wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release toxins into the air. This is why you should monitor conditions and stay away from beaches where red tide is in bloom.

People in coastal areas can experience varying degrees of eye, nose and throat irritation during a red tide bloom. Some individuals with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic lung disease might experience more severe symptoms.

Red tide toxins can also affect the central nervous system of fish and other marine life, which can lead to fish kills.

What causes red tide?

A red tide bloom develops naturally, but recent studies have discovered mankind's infusion of other nutrients into the mix can make the red tide last longer or get stronger. But biology (the organisms), chemistry (natural or man-made nutrients for growth) and physics (concentrating and transport mechanisms) interact to produce the algal bloom. No one factor causes the development of a red tide bloom.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are a group of organisms that can live in freshwater, saltwater or brackish water.

Large concentrations, called blooms, can change the water color to blue, green, brown, orange or red. Some cyanobacterial blooms can look like foam, scum, or mats on the surface of freshwater lakes and ponds. As algae in a cyanobacterial bloom die, the water may smell like something with a naturally unpleasant odor has now started to rot, too.

Is blue-green algae harmful?

Different types of blue-green algal bloom species can look different and have different impacts. However, regardless of species, many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins that can make you or your pets sick if swallowed or possibly cause skin and eye irritation.

The FDEP advises staying out of water where algae is visibly present as specks or mats or where water is discolored. Pets or livestock should not come into contact with algal bloom-impacted water or with algal bloom material or fish on the shoreline. If they do, wash the animals right away.

What causes blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae blooms occur when the algae that are typically present grow in numbers more than normal. Within a few days, a bloom can cause clear water to become cloudy.

Winds tend to push the floating blooms to the shore where they become more noticeable. Cyanobacterial blooms can form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients. Blooms can occur at any time, but most often occur in late summer or early fall.

If any major type of water quality alert is issued, you can find the details here in WGCU’s Water Quality Report.

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