The Cost of Doing Nothing: Toxic Algae Bloom Hurts Tourism, Changes Senator Inhofe’s Tune

Cynthia Liebman

Yesterday, National Public Radio reported on a severe toxic algae bloom that is plaguing a popular lake in Oklahoma.

The algae in Oklahoma was spurred by familiar factors – lower water levels in the lake due to higher  water consumption by people, hotter conditions and low rainfall attributable to climate change, and nutrient pollution swept into the lake by stormwater runoff from the surrounding land area.

What was new was to hear public officials acknowledge that the lack of clean water is hurting the local economy and impacting people’s health.

As NPR Reported:

“ Across the state, the lack of water has even cut into tourism. Low water levels in northeast Oklahoma’s Grand Lake resulted in a spike of toxic levels of blue-green algae.

Gov. Mary Fallin says this hit just as visitors were arriving for July 4 celebrations.

It took a toll on businesses and tourism at the lake itself,” Fallin says. ‘Some of the businesses I talked to at Grand Lake told me they saw a 50 percent drop in the number of people who were coming into their businesses.’”

As the CLF Scoop reported earlier this summer, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe got sick after swimming amid the toxic blue-green algae in Grand Lake, and pinned his own illness on the algae.  Inhofe is known as one of the staunchest anti-environmentalists in Congress, and has opposed regulation to address climate change.  The Senator himself reportedly admitted the irony, suggesting that “the environment was fighting back.”

CLF hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines like some.  We’re fighting back against the sources of toxic algae blooms in New England – polluted stormwater runoff, inadequate management of sewage, and carbon dioxide emissions that accelerate climate change.  Reversing the devastating toxic algae blooms that regularly shut down bays along Cape Cod, Lake Champlain, New Hampshire’s Great Bay, Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, and elsewhere throughout the region is a top priority for CLF.

Unfortunately, it has taken a crisis to convince some elected officials what CLF has known for years.  Clean water generates economic growth, health, and tourism, while creating outdoor spaces that nurture our spirit.

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