U.S Senator Bill Nelson tours St. Lucie River, calls for decrease in Lake Okeechobee releases
By Meghan McRoberts, WPTV
Jun 30, 2016
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — U.S Senator Bill Nelson toured the St. Lucie River Thursday to see and smell what Treasure Coast residents are dealing with on a daily basis.
Nelson’s boat tour was cut short due to weather. He was rerouted to see the algae that coats the St. Lucie River at Central Marine.
He described the smell as “rotten algae”.
Nelson even coughed and expressed how his sinus was bothering him during an interview near the water.
“I am like the canary in the coal mine… I’m very sensitive to allergies,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he is disgusted by the conditions, and explained the need for a short term quick fix.
“The question is how do we stop putting nutrient-laden water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee?” Nelson said.
Nelson said he called the Army Corps of Engineers this week, asking them to start storing more water to the north of Lake Okeechobee, and start sending more water south through canals.
“The best way to do the quick fix is to get as much water into storage as you can in the canals, as well as hold the water back from coming into the lake by filling up the Kissimmee river,” Nelson said.
Nelson also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to fill up any other storage areas around the state and hope we do not have any significant storms in the next few weeks.
As far as making more progress on a long term fix, Nelson put the pressure on the state, specifically addressing Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 passed in 2014 to allocate money specifically for land acquisition and restoration in the state.
“We’ve got to get the state of Florida to spend amendment 1 money for what it was intended, not state administrative expenses,” Nelson said.
He also said he wants Governor Rick Scott to tour the conditions. Nelson said Scott has not requested federal aid.
Concerned residents followed Nelson on his water tour, some asking why this keeps happening and why more hasn’t been done since the most recent large algae bloom in 2013.
“When you try to reverse 75 years of diking and draining, that takes time,” Nelson said.
Since 2013, Nelson says more water has been sent south to restore the everglades.
Nelson said he has also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to re asses their lake discharge schedule which was last updated nearly 8 years ago.
Since then, Nelson says repairs have been make to the dike around the length to strengthen it. He says the lake could possible hold more water for longer than it is being held now.
Residents just want to see something change quickly.
“Do these people not have heart? Do they not know what they’re doing to this planet?… I hope he feels the pain we feel, said resident Deedra Ryder.
Nelson says he will be taking pictures of the algae to the White House.
Rubio Visits Treasure Coast, Calls For Action On Catastrophic Algal Bloom Situation
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today visited the Treasure Coast to view the Lake Okeechobee discharges through the St. Lucie Lock, St. Lucie River and the inlet/beaches, and observed the algal bloom during a waterway tour and ground tour. In a media availability following the tour, Rubio outlined ways to solve the harmful and toxic algal boom issue that is plaguing the Treasure Coast.
“There [are] a number of things that can happen immediately,” Rubio said. “Number one is I hope we can convince the Corps to perhaps even stop flows for a short period of time to allow water through here to kind of flush itself out. Second is get an emergency declaration from the President so that we can have some more assistance available to local business owners in the local community.
“Third is to get the CDC or an appropriate healthcare agency at the federal level to come down and do an assessment of the long-term health risks posed by this algae bloom,” Rubio continued. “The fourth thing is, we want to continue to move forward to get that water bill passed so the Central Everglades Planning Project can move forward and some of these key components that we’ve discussed here today can actually happen.”
Rubio supported Martin County’s request for a state of emergency earlier this week and said he would support a request from Governor Rick Scott to declare the area a federal disaster. He also urged the Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action by stopping discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and the Corps announced it would reduce flows one day later.
A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below:
Senator Marco Rubio: “I want to thank all the local elected officials, the state legislators, in particular Senator Negron, [Representative Magar] and Representative Harrell and others, Representative Mayfield, that have joined us here today.
“This is a catastrophic situation, I don’t know if there’s a precedent for this situation anywhere in the country that’s ever been faced to this magnitude when it comes to an algae bloom. So certainly, we want to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen.
“Look, I get people’s anger and frustration. My goodness, I mean when we went down to a homeowner who had a beautiful piece of property and his backyard, his little beachfront that he has there, his dock area, it smelled and looked like an open sewage pit.
“The impact this is going to have on tourism, the impact this is going to have on property values, the impact that it’s having on small businesses. I met a Capitan on a small little sailboat that hasn’t been able to go out in two weeks. This is the peak season for him and he’s not going to make any money for two weeks. Who can sustain that?
“So this is beyond just an ecological disaster; it’s an economic disaster with long-term implications. I’m in favor of answers. I want this problem to be solved. The fundamental problem is that water, heavy in nutrients, is meeting water also with nutrients, and the combination of those two things in this weather is creating these algae blooms that are having a catastrophic impact.
“So we need to deal with every aspect of it. We need to deal with the water North of Lake Okeechobee that’s coming down from the Kissimmee, the ability to retain more of it, the ability to treat it so that the water going into the lake is cleaner. We need to deal with water in the lake if that’s possible. We need to deal with how much water is released from the lake. We need to deal with where that water is stored as it comes out so that we can have the capability to store more of it and treat more of it.
“Ultimately, we want to see more of that water, in a better condition, flowing into the Everglades the way it’s supposed to flow. And there are projects in place to do that. I know that the state has stepped up and met its obligations in many of them. It has been difficult to get the federal government to do it.
In the five years that I’ve been there, we were able to get the Ten Mile Creek deauthorization, it’s a small piece of the puzzle, but that got done. We were finally able to convince my colleague, the Chairman of the Committee in Oklahoma, to agree to the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which will allow us to move forward on authorizing a lot of the Everglades projects that will help with the treatment and the retention and the natural flow of this water.
“But I know that all of those are long-term projects that take time, and I know none of it provides the sort of immediate relief that people are looking for right now. So in the short-term I think one of the most important things we need to do is work with the Water Management District and in particular with the Army Corps to have them reexamine the schedule by which they’re releasing water.
“I believe that based on the improvements that have been made on several portions of the dike that they are capable of retaining a little bit more water than what they’ve been doing. And even if it’s half a foot more, that can make a big difference. I think that’s an important part of it.
“I congratulate and thank the governor in the state for retaining more water to the North because that’s what’s allowed them to stop the flows, or at least slow down the flows that we see now. [We can] potentially ask the Corps in the short-term to say, “Let’s not have any more flows for a couple weeks to allow this system to flush itself out. I know that the corps is focused on preventing a breach of the dike. That’s a potential risk. This is a real and present danger that we’re facing now.
“I think there’s work to be done. I hope the President will have an emergency declaration because that will open up the full portfolio of aid that the federal government can provide local businesses and communities that are being impacted by this.
“I also think it’s important to have the Centers for Disease Control or other appropriate health agencies of the federal government to come down and study: What are the long-term implications of this algae, of the toxins that it releases? And as it dies off and turns into that disgusting blue and brown film, what does that mean two years from now when this stuff gets in the air, when this stuff is embedded in the sand and soil, what does it mean to little kids who dig up that sand and touch it, or to people who are living by it
“So all of these things – It’s a complex and painful thing to talk about and it’s a very difficult thing to deal with because it doesn’t have one singular cause and it doesn’t have one singular project that solves it all. We all wish there was one thing we could do, just one magic thing that we can do. We’ve got to do a lot of magic things, and we’ve got to commit to doing [them] as soon as possible so we don’t continue to see this.
“For this community, you’ve been hearing this now over and over again. All these officials come down, they say this, and then next year it happens again. I get it. I really, really do. We’re going to do everything we can to continue to create a sense of urgency about the need to do stuff now, but also for the future.”
Rubio: “If I believe that the sugar industry was the only contributor to this then we would do everything possible to address that immediately, but there are multiple contributors to this and it’s not just agriculture. It isn’t. It isn’t. There are localized sources and they have been working hard here to deal with that and it’s difficult to do, I know because it’s costly, but that’s a reality.
“Ninety percent of the water in Lake Okeechobee does not come from the south, it comes from the north from the Kissimmee basin, it comes down and it’s bringing nutrients from cattle operations, but also from population centers. And now it’s ninety percent of the water that’s in the lake. The lake itself has deep embedded historical sediment on the bottom that also has nutrients in it. So there’s not just one causation here, that’s what I mean, there’s multiple causes to this.
“I understand their frustration. Listen, if I had to wake up every morning and see this garbage in the water, I’d be really angry too. If there’s one person or one industry we could blame, that’s a lot easier to do. But I’m telling you, they’re not the only ones. The causes of those nutrients come from multiple places and it includes people living in homes northwest of the lake and that’s the reality of modern Florida, we’re going to have to deal with that aspect of it as well.”
Rubio: “One of the problems that we have is that, that water is being released and it’s going east and west instead of South. Part of it is because the Everglades Restoration Program has not moved forward, largely because of the federal government’s shortfalls in funding for it. As a result, if it can’t go South and they don’t want to hold it, it’s got to go somewhere, and it’s going east and it’s going west and it’s impacting communities.
“That’s why this needs to be dealt with in a multifaceted way – in a way that allows us to retain more water, have the water that’s going into the lake be cleaner, have the water coming out of the lake be cleaner, the ability to hold more water over longer periods of time. All these things have to happen. One of them alone will not be enough.”
Rubio On His Efforts In Congress:
“We’ve been in constant contact, both through the staff level and personally, including conference calls that we’ve done. I don’t know the count, but there were several. But more important than the meetings, we’ve actually taken action. One of the top priority items the last time I was here is the deauthorization of the Ten Mile Creek Project, and that happened. The second was the Central Everglades Planning Project, which had a major impediment in my colleague from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe, and over years of working with him, he’s finally agreed to move forward. It’s now in the water bill in the Senate. But there’s more that needs to be done. None of these things alone are satisfactory.”
Rubio On His Frustration’s With Washington:
“When I say I’m frustrated with Washington, this is one of the reasons why. We’re being impacted by the Zika virus in Florida and we can’t even get that appropriated. It gets mixed up in this partisan battle back and forth. So it is frustrating. In Tallahassee we used to meet for 60 days, we got a lot of things done in 60 days. In Washington, 60 days is like one day in the real world. And so it’s a very difficult process but we can’t give up. We’ve got to continue to push. It took me four years to get Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma to finally agree to even put the Central Everglades Planning Project in the water bill. It took four and a half years to get this to that point. That’s a lot of work. I know that’s not satisfactory for someone who has a bunch of algae sitting right off their dock and it’s killing their business and the value of their property, and their local economy, and their kids can’t go in the water, and the oysters that they used to grow up cultivating have now been killed off, fish are dying – I understand that, I really do. All I can tell you is we’re going to continue to work as hard as we can to ensure those projects that are in the pipeline happen, because they’re a critical component of ensuring that we’re not having these press conferences every two years.”
Rubio Outlines His Plan To Solve The Algae Issue:
“There [are] a number of things that can happen immediately. Number one is I hope we can convince the Corps to perhaps even stop flows for a short period of time to allow water through here to kind of flush itself out. Second is get an emergency declaration from the President so that we can have some more assistance available to local business owners in the local community.
“Third is to get the CDC or an appropriate healthcare agency at the federal level to come down and do an assessment of the long-term health risks posed by this algae bloom. The fourth thing is, we want to continue to move forward to get that water bill passed so the Central Everglades Planning Project can move forward and some of these key components that we’ve discussed here today can actually happen.”
SFWMD Taking More Action to Address Blue-Green Algae Emergency
This week Gov. Rick Scott and the Martin County Commission declared a state of emergency because of blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers and canals of South Florida. Since then the South Florida Water Management District has been pursuing several actions to address the impact of the blooms. This includes holding additional water in the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes north of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the volume of water flowing south into Lake Okeechobee.
The District has begun requesting the use of private properties to store additional water. In response, Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL) confirmed it can temporarily store approximately 2.2 billion gallons per month of Lake Okeechobee water withdrawn from the C-44 canal in the cooling pond at the FPL Martin Clean Energy Center near Indiantown in western Martin County. Storage of this water will begin today and continue for approximately three to four months.
“On behalf of our Governing Board, I would like to thank FPL for responding so quickly to this water storage request after the governor’s declaration of emergency,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “Each of us has an important role to play, including the private sector. FPL has proven to be a great partner with its actions today.”
The District will implement the Governor’s executive order by accelerating the use of private properties to store additional water. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Scott appropriated approximately $47.8 million for that purpose last session.
The District will continue to explore practical operational steps that can be taken to address the algal blooms. In addition, the District is continuing to sample waterways and is coordinating with other state agencies that are responsible for algae response.
- For more information on the District’s responses to blue-green algae and facts about algae, please visit the District’s website at http://sfwmd.link/AlgaeResponse.
- For information on the Department of Environmental Protections response to blue-green algae, visit the DEP’s website at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/bgalgae/index.htm.
For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website at http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/_documents/cyano-faqs-pio.pdf.
News Cast for July 5th:
Okeechobee sheriff’s candidate Daryl Stokes said his 30 years of experience, most of it with the Martin County sheriff’s office, makes him the most qualified to become our next sheriff. Stokes also wants a career academy to attract teenagers to law enforcement and help local families with college costs. Stokes also wants to get more citizen input on the sheriff’s budget.
15 hundred people attended protests on the Treasure Coast this weekend over the algae blooms and the state of emergency. The citizens for clean water plan further protests in Palm City and West Palm Beach this month. They want 50 thousand acres purchased south of the lake for a flow way and storage area. Florida Power and Light agreed to store 2.2 billion gallons of water per month in their cooling ponds at the Indiantown based Martin Clean Energy Center. It would take water out of the C-44 canal.
A new hurricane season app for your phone is available through Okeechobee County emergency management. He said over 13 hundred people have downloaded the apps so far that provides weather and local information. ITunes or google play has the app which is available at Okeechobee County emergency management. He said an average hurricane season is predicted this year but he noted Florida is overdue for a hurricane, as it’s been over 10 years since we’ve had a major hurricane.
Sports Cast for July 5th:
Okeechobee Brahman boys’ basketball coach Demetre Riles said he is pleased with the 2 thousand 16 season where the team made regional for the first time in over 10 years. He said each year builds on the last and he thinks the program can take another step forward. Riles said the team’s improvement will have to come at the defensive end of the floor as he wasn’t happy with how many points opponents scored. The team also had an all-state player this year in Shaquoy Ferrol. The team also hasn’t had an off season as they continue to play in several amateur youth basketball tournaments.
News Cast for July 1st:
Sheriff Paul May proposed his last budget, which would spend 16 point 3 million, about 9 hundred thousand dollars more than this year. His top priority is a 5 percent raise for his employees. He said they have received only one raise in seven years after having benefits taken away by the state. The plan is to purchase four new vehicles, and hire five new employees including a narcotics detective, deputy and jail nurse. Sheriff May says his loyal employees need to be rewarded. Under Sheriff Noel Stephen said the salary hike comes down to retaining good employees.
A citizen’s petition is being signed to make parts of Treasure Island, a golf cart friendly community. A recent operation by the sheriff’s office led to some warnings and citations for those using the golf carts on the street. Resident Michael Brown said most people in Treasure island will support this measure
Water management upset with littering and defecating fishermen on the top of the nubbin slough water control structure and will seek to ban fishing on the structure and the hand rails that lead to the water there, a popular fishing site.
An Okeechobee man59 year old Gregory Todd is being extradited back to Houston, Texas for allegedly sending threatening emails to a woman there between December of 2 thousand 14 and last month, including threats of bodily injury or death on the victim. His bond was 1 hundred and 50 thousand dollars.
The Corps of engineers will reduce releases of fresh water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries beginning today.
Sports Cast for July 1st:
Austin Hamilton took over two years off from the game of baseball, but never lost his love or interest in the game. He decided to go back to Indian River State College and was able to play two years for the Pioneers and recently earned a scholarship to pitch for Valdosta State in Georgia, a Division II school. He said he is looking forward to the next challenge in his baseball career. Hamilton had a 3 point 10 earned run average this past season and struck out 67 batters in 81 innings as the Pioneers struggled to a 10-win season.
Hamilton said he really conditioned himself, and got stronger this past year and that helped his performance. Hamilton said he trusted his stuff, and had confidence that he could get college hitters out.
He threw a perfect game against Westwood during his sophomore year.
News Cast for June 30th:
Kevin Cutts received at least another 28 years in prison after a day long sentence hearing for a 1995 murder Wednesday. Cutts killed Elisabeth Hatfield by shooting her 10 to 12 times in a Four Seasons trailer at 4 in the morning on March 15th of 1995. He claimed his co-defendant Ryan Harris preyed on his insecurities due to not knowing his own father when he repeatedly claimed the mother of his child was abusing his baby.
Cutts apologized to the victim’s family and said he has been rehabilitated during his 21 years in prison. The victim’s family had little sympathy or forgiveness for Cutts. Hatfield’s mother Christine Hatfield Hull called Cutts an evil demon. Hatfield’s daughter Elisabeth Schlusher, who was the infant in the trailer the morning of the murder, said the sentence should not be reduced. Hatfields younger sister Jessie Stinnett said Cutts poems and letters about the crime show he has no remorse. Cutts said he did not defend himself and always cooperated with law enforcement and prosecution in the two Ryan Harris trials.
Harris today is in prison for battery on a law enforcement officer. He received 7 years for his role in the death of his estranged girlfriend.
A fight between roommates led to a stabbing in Indiantown Tuesday. Raymond James was charged with aggravated battery. Phaoion Davis was injured in the stomach and treated at St. Mary’s.
28 year old Joshua Charles of Buckhead Ridge was charged with battery on the elderly after he allegedly punched a female several times because she couldn’t get to the store in time to purchase alcohol.
Sports Cast for June 30th:
Aljay Holt was named the Brahman Award winner for boys’ tennis this year at OHS. Holt rarely got to play on the court but was a big part of the team on the sidelines because he was a positive role model and always encouraged his teammates.
He said his teammates kept him motivated. Holt said it was an emotional moment when his name was called for the award. He cheered all his teammates, was always ready to play if needed and pumped up to be on the team. He enjoys working on cars and wants to eventually study auto mechanics.
Rooney Fights to Include Flood Insurance Funding In Homeland Security Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured $54.4 million for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund, $5 million for the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate, and $345 million for Assistance to Firefighter grants, all under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This money was part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2017, legislation that passed the Appropriations Committee today.
The Homeland Security Appropriations bill provides a total of $7.3 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief and emergency response activities. Rooney secured funding for programs that help reduce the burden of rising flood insurance rates for homeowners and communities in Florida’s 17th district and that substantially lower their exposure to the physical and economic damages of future hurricanes and floods.
“Florida homeowners have been hit particularly hard by hikes in flood insurance premiums and, to make matters worse, FEMA is basing many of my communities’ flood risk and rates on inaccurate, outdated flood maps,” Rooney said. “The programs funded by this bill will provide relief for homeowners both before and after a storm, help them obtain accurate and reliable information on their flood insurance policies, and reward communities that develop disaster mitigation plans that reduce the economic impact of future disasters.”
On behalf of several counties in Florida’s 17th District, Rooney secured report language in the bill that directs FEMA to allocate flood map funding to help local governments acquire the data collection tools necessary to remap their local jurisdictions. Additionally, Rooney’s language ensures FEMA’s data collection and modeling processes are transparent from beginning to end and involve the active participation of local jurisdictions to ensure maps accurately reflect local conditions and minimize costs to local communities. Rooney also directs FEMA to collaborate with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau to use actual data on home values and household income when determining policyholders’ eligibility for National Flood Insurance Program vouchers.
Importantly, this legislation also targets border and immigration enforcement, enhances domestic protection against cyberterrorism, and supports efforts to stop the smuggling of people and drugs into the United States and our communities.
Other highlights of the bill include:
- The highest Customs and Border Control staffing levels in history to ensure our borders are adequately protected by putting boots on the ground and improving technology.
- $2.1 billion for domestic and international investigations programs, including efforts to combat human trafficking, child exploitation, cybercrime, visa screening, and drug smuggling.
- $119.1 million in funding for E-Verify, which helps companies check if their employees may legally work in the United States.
- Prohibits the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.
- Increases funding and prioritizes readiness for the U.S. Coast Guard and provides personnel with a needed 1.6 percent pay increase.
$36.3 million for University Centers of Excellence (COE), like the University of South Florida’s Cybersecurity COE, that focus on cybersecurity research and education.
Rooney Supports Bicameral Funding for Zika Control Efforts in Florida
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17), one of two Florida House Members appointed to the Zika Conference Committee, ensured the final Zika Conference Report would directly send a portion of the $1.1 billion in funding to states like Florida, which has been experiencing active cases of Zika for months. The measure passed with near unanimous Republican support, but unfortunately despite their calls for more funding and quick action, not one Florida Democrat voted in support of the bill.
Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Zika Response Appropriations Act (H.R. 2577) final Conference Report. Rooney, appointed to the Conference Committee by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, supported the legislation and secured critical mosquito control funds for his home state of Florida. Rooney inserted language in the bill that directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide a robust level of funding to support mosquito control efforts conducted by state, county, or municipal programs, including mosquito control districts.
In total, the legislation provides $1.1 billion in immediate funding for domestic and international efforts to fight Zika and prevent the virus from spreading in the United States. At the time of the vote, Florida had a total of 213 confirmed travel related Zika cases, 40 of which involve pregnant women; there have been no locally acquired cases of Zika reported in Florida. Rooney has been actively monitoring Zika since reports of the virus first emerged earlier this year, and as a Member of the Appropriations Committee, he and his colleagues met with Administration officials and experts in the field to determine what funding was needed immediately to prevent an outbreak in the U.S. and to determine how much the Administration could reasonably absorb and spend within a short period of time. The Committee’s focus has been to act quickly and responsibly, and this bill reflects House Republicans’ second attempt to give the Administration the money it says it needs immediately.
“I needed to be the voice for people in Florida because we have a number of confirmed cases of the virus and mosquito season is upon us – which means we really have no time to waste,” Rooney said. “I have said from the very beginning that we cannot make public health a political issue and I’m disappointed that my Democratic Florida colleagues voted against providing $1.1 billion toward our response efforts. Public health and responsible government spending do not have to be mutually exclusive. Time is of the essence and there is absolutely no good or practical excuse to vote against – or veto – this bill.”
This bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 239 – 171, gaining only six Democrats voting in support, whom Rooney lauds for choosing public health over politics.
Following Washington’s Failure to Authorize Federal Zika Funding, Gov. Scott to Allocate $26.2 Million for Zika Preparedness
Following Washington’s Failure to Authorize Federal Zika Funding, Gov. Scott to Allocate $26.2 Million for Zika Preparedness
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that he will use his emergency executive authority to allocate $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida. This decision follows the federal government’s failure to take immediate action to approve funding for Zika preparedness by June 1st, the start of hurricane season. The $26.2 million from the state’s General Revenue fund will only be released as needed and will be spent solely for the purpose of Zika preparedness, including:
- Mosquito surveillance and abatement;
- Training for mosquito control technicians;
- Enhanced laboratory capacity; and
- The purchase of CDC Zika Prevention Kits.
Governor Scott has directed Surgeon General Dr. Philip to oversee the process of allocating these state funds which will go directly to the efforts of Florida’s county health departments, local mosquito districts and laboratories based on their needs to combat Zika.
Governor Scott said, “On June 1st, I called on President Obama’s administration to immediately provide items to prepare for the possible spread of the Zika virus. This included requests made by more than 25 counties, cities and mosquito districts across Florida. Today, we have more than 40 entities with requests that are in excess of $19 million. It is clear that we can no longer afford to wait on the federal government. That is why I am authorizing $26.2 million from our state’s General Revenue fund to be allocated solely for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida.
“We are in the middle of hot, rainy weather which is when mosquitoes are most prevalent. It is clear that allocating this funding is necessary if we are going to stay ahead of the spread of this virus. I am profoundly disappointed that Washington does not share in our commitment and has continued to play politics with the health and safety of our families. Time and time again, we have stepped up and funded issues when the federal government failed to show up. I will not let Washington’s inaction jeopardize the health, safety and wellbeing of Floridians.
“This is a national issue that every state will have to battle. While our first priority is to protect our state, we are also trusted to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Every dollar of this funding will go directly to preventing the spread of Zika in Florida, and each decision on its allocation will be held to the highest standards of accountability.
“While all of Florida’s Zika cases are still travel-related, we know that the best way to protect ourselves during a hurricane is to have a good game plan before the storm comes. Protecting our state from Zika is no different. There is no doubt that we fall further and further behind fighting the spread of this virus with every day that passes if we are not fully prepared. That is why we are taking immediate action today to protect our families and visitors.”
Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam said, “I thank Governor Scott and the Department of Health for their leadership in responding to the threat of Zika. We must do everything we can to protect Floridians and visitors from Zika, and this much-needed funding will go a long way to support mosquito control efforts around the state.”
The federal government has only allocated $153,844 for epidemiology and lab support, $500,000 for seven counties for mosquito control and $40,856 in lab supplies and personnel. If additional federal funds are eventually allocated to the state, it will be used to reimburse any state General Revenue already spent.
Florida now has more than 200 travel-related cases of Zika across 23 counties. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Zika a “public health emergency of international concern.” The Public Health Emergency has been amended to clarify the emergency executive authority. To view the Executive Order, click HERE.
Gov. Scott Declares State of Emergency in St. Lucie and Martin Counties Following Algal Blooms
Also Directing DEP & FWC to Mitigate Spread of Algal Blooms
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 16-155 declaring a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties following the presence of algal blooms in local waterways. The Executive Order will allow state and local governmental agencies to take swift action to mitigate the spread of algal blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries by redirecting the flow of water in and out of Lake Okeechobee. Governor Scott is also directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to take specific actions to address the issues caused by blooms. To view Executive Order 16-155, click HERE.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Today, I am declaring a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties to expedite water storage projects to alleviate the proliferation of algal blooms. The order also allows the South Florida Water Management District to reduce the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee through additional water storage projects. In addition to our Executive Order, I am calling on the federal government to speedily approve permits for our dispersed water management programs. I am also asking DEP and FWC to take actions to address the issues caused by algal blooms in South Florida waterways, including developing a hotline for residents to report algal blooms and deploying teams of additional staff to more rapidly survey and sample areas impacted by blooms.
“Florida’s waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait. Because the Obama Administration has failed to act on this issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae which is now entering residential waterways in South Florida. Although the President has failed to do what is needed to address this growing issue, the State of Florida will devote every available resource to find solutions for the families and businesses in this area.”
Gov. Scott is directing DEP to take the following actions:
- Deploy teams of additional staff to more rapidly survey and sample areas impacted by algal blooms.
- Purchase On-Site Microsystin Testing Kits which allow field staff to perform faster, preliminary tests for toxins on site. These kits will provide information about the sampled algae more quickly and allow preliminary health advisories to be issued.
- Launch a Bloom Reporting Hotline. DEP will be establishishing a hotline for citizens to call to report algal blooms, allowing staff to quickly respond to areas with a suspected bloom.
Gov. Scott is directing FWC to take the following action:
- Continue deploying FWC Research Institute staff to survey and sample any suspected blooms offshore. At this time, no offshore blooms have been confirmed.
Gov. Scott is directing the South Florida Water Management District take the following actions:
- Store additional water north of Lake Okeechobee in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
- Work with state and community partners to explore every opportunity to increase water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee.
- Store additional water through dispersed water storage projects.
Florida has invested more than $688 million in Everglades restoration over the past five years and will continue to invest up to $200 million a year under the Legacy Florida bill which Governor Scott signed into law this year. The State of Florida has invested nearly $2 billion in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and $1.8 billion in providing clean water to the Everglades. To date, the federal government is $880 million behind in its share of CERP funding.
Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “We want to make sure our coastal communities know we are doing everything possible to help mitigate the environmental and resulting economic impacts of this algae. I applaud the Governor’s leadership and am grateful for his dedication to our environment.”
Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli said, “I applaud Governor Scott for cutting through red tape in order to expedite the construction of crucial water storage projects in Martin County and St. Lucie County that the Legislature funded this Session. We know that storing water north, east, and west of Lake Okeechobee is the key to reducing damaging discharges. I am confident that the South Florida Water Management District will be able to bring these projects to fruition. It will take time, but thanks to Governor Scott and the District, we will not have to needlessly wait for relief.”
Senate President-Designate Joe Negron said, “I want to thank Governor Scott for recognizing the catastrophic impact this blue-green algae is having on our community. Our beaches and water are polluted and our way of life has been dramatically impacted. The Governor’s quick action today reflects his commitment to making certain our community has the resources we need to address this disaster as quickly as possible.”