Businesses: Discharges causing economic loss

Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 22:23:25-05

STUART, Fla -- Gov.Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency Friday for Martin, St. Lucie and Lee Counties.

The order follows heavy rains and record discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

The State of Emergency comes after Treasure Coast business owners voiced major concerns Friday morning.

They gathered in Stuart to raise awareness about the impact the discharges are having on their livelihoods. 

These major discharges come at a time when water-related business are supposed to be thriving. Instead, these business owners are losing money, and they don't know how long it could last.

For three weeks now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been discharging billions gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie estuary. The concern is the Lake is too high and the dike around it might not hold.

However, the concern for these business owners is the fresh water killing the life in the salt water estuary. On top of that, they say it's polluting the water.

It is a deadly combination for many of these water-related business.

"Whether it's fishing or diving or snorkeling or skiing, you cant touch the water. That's kind of a problem," said Mark Nichols a local fishing lure business owner.

"It's been a huge burden, particularly because it's coming during tourist season when everyone makes their money," said Mike Holliday, a Stuart fishing guide.

The business owners say the want to see the State purchase land south of the Lake and send the water in that direction.

The lake is still slightly above 16 feet. but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it has been slowly going down.