[USA] Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday added Lee County to a declared state of emergency regarding water conditions in the Lake Okeechobee system.
Massive algal blooms have shut down swimming beaches and recreational areas in the St. Lucie area, the east coast recipient of lake releases. Scott declared an emergency for that area Wednesday.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers; and Rep. Ray Rodriguez, R-Estero, sent a joint letter to Scott’s office early Thursday asking that Lee be added to the emergency declaration.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it will decrease water releases to the west and east coasts, going from 4,000 cubic feet of water here to about 3,000 cubic feet per second. Water experts say the river and estuary can be harmed when the release rate hits 2,800 cubic feet per second.
The Caloosahatchee River is used to release water from the Okeechobee. The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee were connected to the lake about a century ago to drain the Everglades for development and farming, and both systems have shown signs of water quality degradation for several months.
East coast leaders earlier this week asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop releases to the St. Lucie, a move that caused some here to worry that the volume of water from Lake Okeechobee would increase on this coast. Army Corps officials said recently there are no plans to change the releases because lives and property around the lake could be threatened by a tropical storm or a period of heavy rains.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Benacquisto said of the blooms gripping the east coast. “It’s bad enough what’s happening here. (And) we don’t want to be that devastated.”
Efforts on Thursday to reach her opponent for the District 27 Senate seat, Jason Maughan, were unsuccessful. Maughan is making water his No. 1 issue in the campaign. He was critical of local legislators Wednesday for not demanding protection for this area, saying on a Facebook post: “The only sensible solution is to acquire land from the sugar interests in the Everglades Agricultural Area and send the water south.”
Caldwell said he didn’t want this region to be left out of the emergency situation.
“The key point for us is that we don’t get left out of the dynamic,” Caldwell said before Scott added Lee to the declaration. “Obviously the heavy algae bloom is most extensive on the east coast right now, but the nutrients and conditions are similar on our coast.”
Caldwell said anyone impacted by the current water situation should be treated the same as others.
“It’s extensive and exacerbates the need to revalue that Lake Okeechobee schedule and look at how we manage the lakes to the north and get water to Everglades National Park,” he said.
View original article at: Gov. Rick Scott adds Lee to emergency declaration after massive algal blooms on East Coast