Senate Committee Meeting focuses on short term solutions to Lake Okeechobee discharges

STUART, Fla. - A Senate Committee hearing was held Thursday in Stuart to discuss short-term solutions to the Lake Okeechobee discharges and their impact on the Indian River Lagoon.

State and Federal lawmakers spoke about what could help the situation.

Citizens also had a chance to voice their concerns and recommendations on how to fix the problem.

John Jackson came to the meeting with an idea of his own and a hope that the government would consider using his organization to deploy algae skimmers to clean up the water.

"It is a non toxic solution to the already polluted waters. The idea is to get the toxic water out now while we're still waiting on legislation," Jackson said.

That was one of dozens ideas floated around. The phrase short term solutions was used over and over again. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there is no easy fix.

"I know people get very upset with the decisions we make, but we are doing everything open to the public and with the public's interest at heart," Col. Alan Dodd with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

State Senator Joe Negron says the Corps should not be the only ones making the decision to release water.

"The Army Corps should not have the exclusive jurisdiction into making these decisions," Negron said.

Negron says a panel of scientists and local leaders should make the discharge decisions with the corps.

State Senator Negron's other proposal is leasing land from ranchers to store water from Lake Okeechobee.

But Jonathan Ullman with the Sierra Club says short term solutions are not the answer. He even wore a bandaid on his shirt to demonstrate his point.

"The bandaid is to show that it is not enough to just money into a reservoir project," Ullman said.

Other citizens hoped this wasn't just another meeting, but instead a plan for action.

"The time for meetings and power points is over. This is an action committee," Negron said.

The Senate Committee has until November 4 to come up with a budget and police changes to help the estuary.


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