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Treasure Coast business owners react to President Trump visit

Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-29 19:00:41-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — President Trump’s visit to the Herbert Hoover Dike Friday gave a sense of hope to some business owners on the Treasure Coast, wanting to see if he will, as a result, increase his support in protecting local waterways.

“Finally, maybe someone will do something,” said Steven Bologna, owner of Native Fishing Charters.

Bologna says the inundation of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River threatens his business.

“It pushes all the fish away for the most part. Pushes the bait away. The habitat destruction of the seagrass has been tremendous. We’ve lost thousands of acres of seagrass all the way up to Fort Pierce because of it,” Bologna said.

If he could meet with Trump, he said he would ask him to do one thing. “I’d like to see more water go south. The Everglades is starving.”

The visit is also a long time coming for Mary Radabaugh, the manager at Central Marine. The business often becomes a ground zero for the worst of the algae.

"We are in desperate need of help. Our water supply, our food chain, our economy, our health, everything is at risk at this point. So, it is very important that we have these people come and see and understand the whole picture of what’s going on,” Radabaugh said.

She fears the risks are still high for another bloom this summer, as water currently being released from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River is carrying nutrients.

“If the temperatures get hot, the water gets warm, we will absolutely be in the position to have another algae bloom and I don’t believe our community for health, economy and every other reason in the world would be able to sustain this much longer,” Radabaugh said.

Danny Robitaille owns Flying Fish Paddle Sports in Port Salerno and is currently preparing for one of his largest events of the year. At least 100 people are expected to come to the area to race paddle boards.

Right now, they will enjoy clean water. But, in the summer months, Robitaille says there is a lot of uncertainty.

“We’re not affected by the actual algae. We’re affected by the perception of algae,” Robitaille said. “It’s always a financial burden and rightfully so, I mean, people are scared to get in the water because of all the health risks that the algae blooms bring.”

Robitaille says he has long wanted to see more support on the federal level.

“Our local politicians have always been very much in tune with how much it affects us, like Congressman Mast.”

He is hopeful about the opportunity for President Trump to gain a better understanding of how decisions made at the lake impact people around the region.

“The waterways in this county and the ocean in this county is really the lifeblood of it all.”