As bad as the massive algae bloom on the Treasure Coast is now, sometime in the coming days or weeks or months, it’s going to die. And when it does, the impact on flora and fauna will make the current disaster look like a tipped bait bucket by comparison.
That’s the prediction from a local professor who says even now the bloom already is blocking life-giving sunlight in the Indian River Lagoon and sending toxins up the food chain at a rate of as much as 10-fold per dinner.
But, he said, it also is blocking sunlight from reaching the entire water column. That kills algae and sea grass at the bottom. They rot. That makes them inedible to small marine animals, fish, turtles and manatees.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay wants the 16-county Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee to hold an emergency meeting to discuss health and environmental concerns stemming algae blooms in area waters.
“Health concerns are my first priority,” McKinlay said in a statement. “Residents need to know what precautions they should take in the interim while this issue is being investigated and solutions are identified.”
McKinlay wants the coalition to meet with the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the agricultural industry.
“I have offered to host the meeting wherever necessary and as soon as possible,” McKinlay said.
Former outside lobbyist Rebecca DeLaRosa is Palm Beach County’s new legislative lobbyist, replacing Todd Bonlarron, who in March was named one of three new assistant county administrators. DeLaRosa previously lobbied for the Moya Group and the Tallahassee office of the Greenberg Traurig law firm and also was legislative director for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. She also was a manager of the Florida Department of Management Services, Bonlarron said Monday in a note to county staff and commissioners.
“This is the fourth year in a row the market has improved,” Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said in a release.
The figures inch the county closer to its historic high of $169.5 billion, set in 2007, before the recession sent it plummeting to a 10-year low of $124.4 billion three years later. Since 2012, the market value of real property in the county has jumped 46 percent, Wednesday’s release said.
Values are set as of Jan. 1 and give cities and other taxing entities guidance as they assemble their budgets, and potential tax rates, for approval at the end of September.
But ERM Director Rob Robbins said Tuesday that delays emerged in the work to punch holes in the ship, in preparation for sinking, and to remove all hazardous materials and schedule a final inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.
He said a tentative date has been set for July 13.
The Indian Trail Improvement District has joined a call by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay to have Gov. Rick Scott investigate the incorporation of Westlake.
“As the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors, elected to serve the residents with regards to drainage, parks and roadways of central Palm Beach County commonly known as The Acreage, we are extremely concerned about the circumstances surrounding the recent conversion of the Seminole Improvement District to Palm Beach County’s 39th municipality called Westlake,” board members wrote to Scott on Friday.
Board members raised many of the same concerns highlighted by McKinlay, who reached out to Scott on Thursday.
Westlake incorporated on Monday when the five votes in favor of conversion were certified by an elections canvassing board.
Minto Communities, the largest landowner in the Seminole Improvement District, backed incorporation, with its vice president, John Carter, saying the developer was having a hard time working with the county as it moved forward with plans to build 4,500 homes in the area.
McKinlay and the Indian Trail Improvement District have raised questions about the legality of the five votes in favor of the conversion plan.
“We respectfully ask that you investigate this issue to ensure the voting process was lawful and free of fraud and that it coincides with the intent of the governing special district conversion legislation,” Indian Trail board members wrote.
McKinlay raised questions about the new city’s charter, which only requires that two of the five transitional council members reside in Palm Beach County. McKinlay, whose district includes Westlake, also noted that each of the five people who voted in favor of incorporation are listed in elections records as sharing the same address.
Property records show that address is for a set of offices owned by Minto Communities, the builder that plans to construct 4,500 homes and develop 2.2 million square feet of commercial space in Westlake.
Minto Vice President John Carter has said his firm backs incorporation in part because of difficulty in working with the county on such things as permitting.
In an interview with The Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Roger Manning, a printing business owner who lives in unincorporated Lake Worth, said he agreed to be Westlake’s mayor at the request of Carter. Both Carter and Manning are board members of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce.
McKinlay has questioned Minto’s role in the conversion of the Seminole Improvement District to the city of Westlake and points out what she sees unusual aspects of the new city’s charter.
“I understand that no law requires municipal officials to reside in the city they serve, but allowing a majority of the Transitional Council to live not only outside Westlake, but also outside of Palm Beach County, strains acceptable principles of representative government,” McKinlay wrote. “On behalf of the 40,000 residents of the Acreage and surrounding communities, I respectfully ask that you investigate the issue to ensure the voting process was lawful and coincides with the intent of the governing special district conversion legislation.”
Palm Beach County Water Utilities’ drinking water did not have any state or federal violations in the 2015 calendar year, Director Jim Stiles told county commissioners Thursday in an e-mail.
Stiles, in issuing his annual summary, said he was “proud to report” that water both in the general utility and in the area formerly covered by the Glades Utility Authority “met or exceeded all federal and state requirements.”
The county utility, which serves about 500,000 households countywide, including the Glades, said it can produce up to 110 million gallons a day of drinking water.
It says drinking water nearly always will contain small amounts of some contaminants, including viruses and bacteria from sewage, plants and animals; salts and metals from runoff; pesticides and herbicides; organic chemicals; and radioactive contaminants.