Town Manager Dave Bullock informed commissioners in a Dec. 12 email that town staff would keep an eye out for red drift algae problems in 2014.
In 2006 and 2007, mounds of the smelly seaweed — which isn’t red tide and isn’t harmful to your health — came to shore along the Gulf coast, including Longboat Key.
The seaweed is more of a nuisance because it can blanket the sand.
Officials are warning that the seaweed could return for the first time in six years because this summer, billions of gallons of freshwater was released from lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River because of the rainy summer season. That water release, combined with excess runoff in other waterways from the rainy season that includes nitrogen and phosphorous, is combining with Gulf water and accelerating algae growth offshore, according to scientists.
Storms and cold fronts producing waves and winds could break up the algae and bring it to shore.
“Commissioners, this is something to be aware of,” Bullock said. “Well keep our eye on it and hopefully won’t see a repeat of that event.”
In the event of red tide or fish kills, the town will rake seaweed from its beach. But the town doesn’t pick up regular seaweed that comes ashore, no matter how much of it plops onto the sand.
It’s too costly to remove large amounts of wet seaweed, which would require large, heavy equipment to remove it. The equipment could negatively impact turtle and shorebird nests.
In the past, though, the town has contacted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to inquire about businesses and residents obtaining permits to rake the beach behind them.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].