Toxic Water: Florida legislators touring Stuart, St. Lucie Lock

STUART – Sen. Joe Negron will escort Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford around Stuart on Monday, as Negron tries to convince the top House lawmaker that the Indian River Lagoon warrants his attention next legislative session.

Special Section: Toxic Water on the Treasure Coast

Weatherford, the 33-year old Republican speaker from Wesley Chapel, is taking a helicopter tour, visiting downtown Stuart, talking to local stakeholders and checking out the St. Lucie Lock and Dam. Weatherford's tour starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Stuart City Hall parking lot, where Weatherford will stroll the Riverwalk to the Flagler Center for media availability. Then the speaker will arrive at the locks around 3 p.m.

Negron, a Stuart Republican and chairman of a Senate committee on the lagoon, is urging the House to consider $220 million worth of projects to help the lagoon, St. Lucie River estuary and Caloosahatchee River.

Most of the policy and budget suggestions Negron's committee has requested require sign-off from the House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has already made the issue a priority by pledging more than $130 million for initiatives aimed at easing the impact of polluted Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases.

The releases from the lake battered the east and west coast estuaries this rainy summer, harming marine wildlife and vegetation and making the water unhealthy to touch.

Local House representatives who are serving as liaisons to the Senate committee also will attend Weatherford's tour, including Reps. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie; Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart; Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach; and MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta.

The Legislature has been in Tallahassee for committee meetings every few weeks since late September, but state spending and policy items are finalized during the March-through-May legislative session.

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