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Coastal waters in Palm Beach County also impacted by deluges

Lake Okeechobee discharge impacts PBC.PNG

Unusually wet weather and damaging discharges are not only impacting Treasure Coast rivers right now. The Lake Worth Lagoon, in Palm Beach County, is also taking a hit.

"Lake Worth Lagoon is an urban estuary," said Eric Anderson, a project manager with Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.

The Lagoon, home to the Intracoastal Waterway in much of the County, has been the focus of a major restoration push in the past couple decades.

Anderson said in spite of its urban location, the Lagoon is still a productive nursery ground for fish and other marine life.

Restoration and habitat improvement projects boost economic activities like fishing, diving and other forms of nature tourism.

But like the St. Lucie River and Indian River on the Treasure Coast, the Lake Worth Lagoon is currently receiving harmful discharges, although very little is from Lake Okeechobee.

Most of the flow is from rainwater runoff-- drainage-- from the lion's share of the county.

Water managers discharge to the Lagoon, to reduce the risk of flooding in neighborhoods, an essential action. But there are consequences.

"When it rains, everything from our lawns, runs off from those lawns, runs off from our streets, ends up in the canals," and ultimately in the Lagoon, said Anderson.

On top of the poor quality, the slugs of water stir up sediments in the Lagoon, further clouding the water.

Anderson says the Lagoon's sea grasses and oysters have yet to recover from our wet periods going back several years.

So with ongoing environmental damage, was it a waste for taxpayers to spend $80 million creating and improving habitat here?

Anderson said the habitat will eventually rebound. He said the restoration efforts are important for the local economy.

Anderson also pointed to two reservoirs projects, west of Loxahatchee, which are designed to store more water and should reduce the discharges.

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