More than 300 people packed into the Blake Library in Martin County to hear from the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday.
Leadership with the Army Corps was in Stuart to update the community and hear feedback on a project that could help reduce some of the water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.
But, many in the crowd took advantage of the opportunity of the Army Corps of Engineers being in town to sound off to the Corps about their thoughts surrounding lake releases, and the projects underway to try to reduce algae in the Indian River Lagoon.
“This is 911. Stop the discharges right now, no more!” A resident told the Corps. “The disaster that is happening in our estuary right now is more severe than the BP oil spill that happened out in the gulf.”
In the mix of Martin County natives, some recently moved here, telling leadership with the Army Corps of Engineers that they did not know the environmental crisis they were moving to.
“We sold our house. We sold everything to come out here and we’ve been here 26 days,” a woman said. “He can’t fish, I can’t go in the ocean, when is it going to be safe?”
Jay Kuhlman just bought a house on the water in Martin County a year ago.
“My 2-year-old kid can’t play in the water behind my house, but I pay property taxes that fund each and every one of you,” Kuhlman said.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been hearing stories like these for years and working on solutions.
“I think they’re trying as best as they can to make something happen but it’s just not enough,” Kuhlman said. “Half of my community has respiratory issues.”
Others turned the attention away from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I’m really grateful that they came to our community,” said longtime resident, Laurie Primm.
She wants politicians to fight harder to open more resources for the Army Corps of Engineers.
“They are banging on their chests saying stop the discharges when they cannot and will not stop the discharges, so what else you got?”
Representative Gayle Harrell also spoke during public comment, saying she would support asking President Donald Trump to sign an executive order suspending the current water release schedule the Army Corps of Engineers is required to follow.