Friday, May 24

Business owners in Stuart feeling impacts of Lake Okeechobee water releases

Every day, diver Russell Singson suits up to clean boats underneath. He said business in Stuart has been hurting recently because of the discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

All of a sudden it went so muddy that you just cant see anything. We cant see our fingers in front of our face. Our headlights just light up sediment and so to get some work done it takes three times as long, Singson, owner of Barracuda Dive Service, said.

Video he took diving in January shows clear visibility underneath the water’s surface, while recent video shows murky water, a result of Lake Okeechobee water releases, which started in mid-February.

Singson said paychecks have been smaller because his divers can’t get to as many boats in one day.

“Some weeks we just took off work altogether because we jump in the water and we cant see anything,” he said. “Were about 50 boats in late status at the moment.”

He added that he and his divers are taking sanitation even more seriously after they finish, fearing infection from the darker water.

Just down the St. Lucie River, At the Helm Training is seeing impacts of their own.

“Looked back at last years numbers and were probably down 50% for this time of the year for our bookings on trainings,” Operations Manager Nancy Husk said.

Husk believes it has everything to do with the discharges.

“Ive gotten some feedback on the trainings that we have taken out and some of the clients were just really concerned about the cleanliness of the water,” Husk said.

She fears what will happen if the discharges continue recalling the last severe algae bloom in 2018.

“A lot of our clients are younger people that want to rent boats and go to sandbars and I dont see that happening right now because I just dont think they want to be in the water,” Husk said.

Meanwhile, Singson is holding onto hope that the Army Corps of Engineers will change their approach.

They did seem to have something in progress, some plan that so that they release less our way but I just have my fingers crossed that they will,” he said.

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