Algae blooms now plague the Santa Fe River, blanketing parts of the river in green.
“You can’t miss them,” Jim Wood, owner of the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost, said. “They’re everywhere.”
The Alachua County Health Department identified algae spreading from Highway 27 Bridge to upstream of Poe Springs.
One test sample taken by the health department showed a potentially harmful bacterium. This algae strain is known to produce a neurotoxin in Australia but has not been proven toxic in the United States.
The algae are only a symptom of a wider problem — extremely low water levels in north Central Florida.
Chris Bird, director of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, said the springs that dot the Santa Fe River are now the river’s only sources of water flow. Since the spring water makes the river water extra clear, Bird said, it allows more sunlight beneath the surface, which helps algae thrive. This sucks up the river’s oxygen supply.
“That can kill the fish because they don’t have enough oxygen to survive,” Bird said.
Wood said he now has to drive his customers three miles down river to launch their canoes or kayaks.
“It’s a 180-degree difference,” Wood said. “It’s like a desert compared to an oasis.”
Contact Shelby Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.