Gov. Rick Scott Declares State Of Emergency In Martin, St. Lucie Counties Over Lake Okeechobee Discharges
After heavy rainfall and record discharges from Lake Okeechobee, Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Lee, Martin and St. Lucie counties.
On Feb. 26, Scott signed an executive order that called for the federal government to pay more than $800 million to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike. The hope is the fix would ensure the dike could hold enough water to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from discharging overflow water into canals that lead to local rivers and estuaries.
As Stuart Magazine’s Ike Crumpler explained in his “Water Solutions” feature, this process doesn’t allow water to be “cleansed naturally of the nitrogen and other nutrients picked up from the lake itself, as well as from the runoff of nearby rural and residential properties.” It upsets the balance of salt and freshwater in the estuary and lagoon, harming marine life. “Worse, many people who make contact with the discharged water report injuries and illnesses,” he wrote.
Conversely, a breach of the dike would flood local communities and farmland.
Scott said the federal government, as the operator of the Herbert Hoover Dike, has a duty to the state of Florida to maintain its upkeep.
“[T]he Obama administration unreasonably failed to budget for adequate maintenance of the Herbert Hoover Dike,” the executive order states. “This has resulted in frequent discharges of harmful water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and estuaries following the heavy rainfall in our state.”
The order goes on to note the release of the waters has “unreasonably interfered with the health, safety and welfare of the State of Florida and its residents,” caused harm to wildlife and impacted the local economy.
In a statement, Scott stressed the urgency of the issue:
“The negative effects of flood waters and harm to wildlife we are currently witnessing in these counties is only the beginning if the President doesn’t fund the more than $800 million in needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike. Our communities are in imminent danger of prolonged flooding and environmental devastation if the dike is ever compromised. Not only is the wellbeing and health of our families at risk if the Obama Administration doesn’t immediately begin funding repairs to their federally operated dike, but our housing market, tourism industry and agricultural community will fail if the dike is not repaired and properly maintained."
(Image shows Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Jason Nuttle.)