New pictures of IRL show discharge affects

City of Stuart wants state to seize US Sugar land

STUART, Fla. -

Congressman Patrick Murphy took an aerial tour of the Indian River Lagoon on Wednesday.


"It was sickening to see because you see the plume out there once you get to the ocean.  You see the blue water and then you see the brown water," said the Jupiter Democrat.


Murphy was joined by Martin County Ecosystem Restoration Manager Deborah Drum, who says not much has changed since freshwater releases began getting pumped into the St. Lucie Estuary from Lake Okeechobee. 


"The releases have gone down and we have seen small incremental improvements in salinity but it's nowhere near what we need them to be to see a significant improvement.  We're in a crisis mode," said Drum.


On that crisis theme, St. Lucie County Commissioners have asked staff to draw up a declaration declaring a state of emergency.  They want Martin County commissioners to join in to give it more weight.


Martin County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Heard said we've been down this road before, so comprehensive reform is needed.


 "We have an ecosystem that is in triage and we are not going to save the patient with a couple of boxes of band-aids," said Heard.


Congressman Murphy said it's important to make sure there is funding for water retention projects like the C-44, already under construction in western Martin County, and that an emergency declaration at the county level could help cut red tape.


City of Stuart Commissioner Jeff Krauskopf led a movement this week to look at drafting a resolution in favor of the state using eminent domain to take over land currently owned by US Sugar.


 "So the water goes south to the Everglades where it has historically gone.  Not in man made trenches and not out this beautiful waterway or the waterway out to the west the Caloosahatchee," said Krauskopf.


Krauskopf says for the first time in his three decades of public service, everyone is taking ownership of the problem and working together to try and get something done.


"The river transcends politics. The river knows no political boundaries," said Krauskopf.  


For Shane Garrison, he'd like the river cleaned up so when he saves up enough to buy a pontoon boat, he can enjoy it.


Judy Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications with US Sugar sent this response to NewsChannel 5.


"Quite frankly, we were shocked.  Elected officials in the United States advocating the willful and punitive taking of private property, demanding that our farms be flooded to protect their interests… that goes against every value that we as Americans hold dear.


Sending dirty lake worth south is merely "relocating" the problem from their backyard to the farming communities and Florida's Everglades.  that is no solution.  


For the last 35 years less than 5% of the water/phosphorus in Lake Okeechobee entered from our farming area.


The real solution is to store and clean the water at its source, north of Lake Okeechobee.  there are billions of dollars of environmental restoration projects in various stages of implementation that will provide cleaner water to the entire system and those are the solutions we should work together to complete."


The city of Stuart hopes to have its resolution drawn up by its next meeting on September 9. St. Lucie County Commissioners may have a declaration of emergency to vote at their next meeting September 3.

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