How Lake Okeechobee’s Dirty Waters Are Killing Florida’s Boat Cleaning Services – And The Tourism Industry

Stuart business owners facing challenges due to Lake Okeechobee water releases

In recent years, Stuart, Fla. has been facing a decline in business due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee. This is particularly affecting boat cleaning services like Barracuda Dive Service, owned by Russell Singson. According to Singson, the murky water caused by the discharges has significantly reduced visibility underwater, making it challenging for divers to do their work efficiently.

As a result, this has led to smaller paychecks and delays in completing boat cleanings. Many boats remain in late status as divers struggle with poor visibility while working underwater. To mitigate these challenges, Singson and his divers are now taking extra precautions with sanitation after diving, concerned about potential infections from the contaminated water.

At At the Helm Training, located along the St. Lucie River, has also seen a 50% decrease in bookings compared to the previous year due to concerns about water cleanliness. Operations Manager Nancy Husk emphasized that clients are avoiding water-related activities due to fears of the water quality. She recalled the severe algae bloom in 2018 that caused significant damage to marine life and tourism in the area.

Both Singson and Husk hope for a change in the Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to water releases from Lake Okeechobee. They anticipate a plan to reduce discharges and improve water quality would positively impact their businesses and local economy and community as a whole.

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