Martin Co. officials want state of emergency

Posted at 8:47 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 00:03:25-05

The water quality in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon is becoming poor enough to threaten and entire eco-system and the local economy.

Martin County Commissioners announced Thursday they are taking action to minimize the impact of Lake Okeechobee releases.

Commissioners formally requested that Governor Rick Scott issue a state of emergency for the St. Lucie River and Indian River lagoon in a newly adopted resolution.

Read the resolution here

It would allow the state to send more funding to Martin County for efforts to protect the environment, and support local businesses that fear the lake water releases will hurt their bottom line.

Dozens of Treasure Coast residents also took action today to protest the maximum releases toward the St. Lucie Estuary. 

"I want to be able to swim in the water, continue to surf, fish and live that lifestyle that I was so privileged to live," said resident Zak Kernan.

Protesters wanted to grab the attention of Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam.

"They've got a lot of good reasons to be upset. It's a terribly frustrating situation," Putnam said.

He explained legislation is in the works to provide relief for the St. Lucie Estuary from lake discharges, but it's a slow process.

Putnam also discussed projects to create more water storage north and south of the lake.

"If we don't get our water right people aren't going to want to come here, they're not going to want to live here. They're not going to want to raise their families here," Putnam said.

Governor Rick Scott made efforts Thursday that pleased protesters. Scott sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers demanding that it send more water south and raise water levels in canals around the Everglades.

The letter states in part, "The Corps needs to raise the level of the L-29 canal to eight and one half feet so that substantial volumes of water can be moved from Water Conservation Area 3 to the Everglades National Park through Shark River Slough. 

Read the entire letter here

A spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers said the Corps is considering the governor's requests, but did not announce any plans to change their current strategy to bring down lake levels.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife also issued orders to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to deviate from its current water management plan and send water to the Everglades.

Read the orders here

The Army Corps of Engineers says there is still no end in sight for the releases, saying they could still last for weeks.