Removal of smelly seaweed begins on Miami Beach amid cleanup across South Florida

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Crews with Miami-Dade County have begun to remove the smelly seaweed that has been putting a damper on beachgoers’ plans this summer, starting with an area on Miami Beach.

7News cameras captured a bulldozer removing large amounts of the tangled brown sea grass that had washed up on the shoreline. Friday morning.

At a news conference, City of Miami Beach commissioners addressed the removal, which is being made possible through a weekly permit.

“Our beaches are just as beautiful as they always are,” said Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman. “We welcome visitors from around the world and tend to take good care of them.”

Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola conveyed the urgency of the removal process that will also target two other hotspots in Miami-Dade County.

“Miami Beach seems to be in the habit of getting invaded by foreign forces and invasive species, whether it’s Zika, spring breakers, iguanas and now it’s seaweed,” he said, “but one thing we always do successfully is rise to the occasion.”

For the past few weeks, visitors and residents have been staring at and dodging the tangled sea debris sprawled along the shoreline.

“We’ve seen higher-than-normal amounts of seaweed,” said Aleman.

Some beachgoers on Miami Beach said they’re able to ignore the mounds of seaweed piled up along the shore.

“It doesn’t really bother me. I’m sitting on a towel. It’s not bothering the girls at all, so it’s fine,” said Lyndsey Francis, who is visiting from England.

Other tourists have a harder time avoiding it.

“I dreamed of like beautiful beaches and kind of things, and I was like a little bit sad about it,” said Rachel Romano, who is visiting from Italy.

“Yesterday the water was very, very — it was very dark, and there was a lot of seaweed in it,” said Nicole Sanchez, who is visiting from Texas, “and you could go and swim, and it was all over your legs, and it felt weird.”

As for its odor, visitor Emily Lopez-Torres said, “It almost smells like a sewer.”

Lopez-Torres, who is visiting Miami Beach from Chicago with her family, said the seaweed has made wading into the water a nuisance.

“It feels like an animal trying to get you,” she said.

But the end is now in sight for people who enjoy the sand, the sun and the ocean.

The first section crews are targeting is the stretch of beach between 26th and 32nd streets on Miami Beach. Next week, crews are scheduled to begin removing the seaweed from Haulover Inlet and Government Cut.

Officials said securing those permits has not been easy.

“Right now we’re getting them only every week,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins. “I believe, since seaweed is now the new normal, we should be getting an annual permit, and I hope to work collaboratively with [the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] and [the Florida Department of Environmental Protection] to make that happen.”

The brown mess isn’t just a problem in Miami-Dade. Officials in Hollywood have been tackling the sea grass for months.

“We do rake it under when it’s not at extreme levels, and then when it gets heavier, we remove it from the beach,” said City of Hollywood spokesperson Raelin Storey.

Getting rid of seaweed is a long and tedious process. It’s also pretty pricey; a cleanup process in Hollywood cost nearly $70,000.

“Maintaining and keeping our beaches really nice, not only for our residents but for our visitors, it’s a cost that we’re taking on,” said Storey.

It might be a nuisance, but seaweed is not harmful, and some of it is actually good for the environment. However, officials said, the amount currently washing ashore in South Florida is too much.

But miles of seaweed are not deterring beachgoers on Miami Beach.

Sanchez said she definitely notices a difference between Thursday and Friday.

“Today it’s lighter. Yeah, you could tell it’s lighter, and there’s not much as it was yesterday,” she said. “The seaweed is, like, cleared up.

When asked whether they would come back again despite the seaweed, Francis smiled and replied, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, Higgins stressed the importance of working with the state to ensure the removal process continues.

“Every day, the problem can compile if we’re not able to work with our equipment on the beach,” said Higgins, “so it’s important that we always have a state permit in order to clean up our beaches every day, with or without seaweed.”

Higgins said she feels confident they will be able to continue to receive weekly permits, but she is aiming for a season-long permit. She said there are plans in place for leaders to discuss the issue in September.

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