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Water advocates, Army Corp of Engineers tour St. Lucie River amid new water legislation

'The one thing I try to do is not get myself tied to legislation or politics," Col. James Booth says
Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 18:46:14-05

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — After a rollercoaster week of political struggles over how to manage Lake Okeechobee, some top water leaders and decision-makers were on the St. Lucie River on Friday for a two-hour tour.

The local boat captains were eager to get their passengers on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.

"Neither of the top two colonels have seen this part of St. Lucie River," said Mike Conner, Indian Riverkeeper.

Conner gave a special invite to Col. James Booth, the local commander for the Army Corps of Engineers. He said it was something he couldn't pass up.

Mike Conner, Indian Riverkeeper
Mike Conner explains the importance of Friday's tour on the river.

"I've had a lot of opportunities over the last five months, and this is one of those great opportunities," Booth said.

The colonel, and most everyone involved in water quality, had attended a groundbreaking earlier in the day for the C-23/24 stormwater treatment area.

This followed a Thursday at the state Capitol where senators rolled back provisions in a bill that would have impacted how the corps manages Lake Okeechobee, the EAA Reservoir and even, some say, affect water releases to waterways like the St. Lucie River.

"I think, from my perspective, the one thing I try to do is not get myself tied to legislation or politics but be open and listen to people's feedback," Booth said.

Col. James Booth, Army Corps of Engineers
Col. James Booth was among those who toured the St. Lucie River on Friday.

Overall, clean water and Everglades advocates said they feel better after the pushback on the bill.

"What happens here, we’re concerned about water coming here from Lake Okeechobee, concerned about our own local stormwater runoff," Conner said. "We want to get the water from Lake Okeechobee south to Florida Bay. That's the ultimate goal."

Seeing the beauty and importance of these waters and keeping blue-green algae out was the goal of Friday's trip on the river.

Some are still concerned about the Lake Okeechobee bill at the Capitol, which is likely headed for a House vote next week.