Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, with its vulnerable dike and polluted waters, has become a giant environmental problem far beyond its banks, according to a report by the New York Times.
The lake is bordered by agricultural fields and communities that depend on them. After heavy rains this summer, officials decided to release some of the lake’s polluted water into estuaries rather than test its dike’s ability to withstand increasing pressure.
As a result, the St. Lucie River estuary in the east and the Caloosahatchee River estuary in the west, which depend on a naturally calibrated balance of salt and fresh water, were overwhelmed.
The damage to the estuaries has been so profound and the clamor from local communities so intense that political leaders have pledged action. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, visited the affected areas last month and proposed spending a total of $130 million for two separate projects.