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U.S Senator Bill Nelson tours St. Lucie River, calls for decrease in Lake Okeechobee releases

Posted at 4:12 PM, Jun 30, 2016

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- U.S Senator Bill Nelson toured the St. Lucie River Thursday to see and smell what Treasure Coast residents are dealing with on a daily basis.

Nelson’s boat tour was cut short due to weather. He was rerouted to see the algae that coats the St. Lucie River at Central Marine.

He described the smell as “rotten algae”.

Nelson even coughed and expressed how his sinus was bothering him during an interview near the water.

“I am like the canary in the coal mine… I’m very sensitive to allergies,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he is disgusted by the conditions, and explained the need for a short term quick fix.

“The question is how do we stop putting nutrient-laden water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee?” Nelson said.

Nelson said he called the Army Corps of Engineers this week, asking them to start storing more water to the north of Lake Okeechobee, and start sending more water south through canals.

“The best way to do the quick fix is to get as much water into storage as you can in the canals, as well as hold the water back from coming into the lake by filling up the Kissimmee river,” Nelson said.

Nelson also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to fill up any other storage areas around the state and hope we do not have any significant storms in the next few weeks.

As far as making more progress on a long term fix, Nelson put the pressure on the state, specifically addressing Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 passed in 2014 to allocate money specifically for land acquisition and restoration in the state.

“We’ve got to get the state of Florida to spend amendment 1 money for what it was intended, not state administrative expenses,” Nelson said.

He also said he wants Governor Rick Scott to tour the conditions. Nelson said Scott has not requested federal aid.

Concerned residents followed Nelson on his water tour, some asking why this keeps happening and why more hasn’t been done since the most recent large algae bloom in 2013.

“When you try to reverse 75 years of diking and draining, that takes time,” Nelson said.

Since 2013, Nelson says more water has been sent south to restore the everglades.

Nelson said he has also asked the Army Corps of Engineers to re asses their lake discharge schedule which was last updated nearly 8 years ago.

Since then, Nelson says repairs have been make to the dike around the length to strengthen it. He says the lake could possible hold more water for longer than it is being held now.

Residents just want to see something change quickly.

“Do these people not have heart? Do they not know what they’re doing to this planet?… I hope he feels the pain we feel, said resident Deedra Ryder.

Nelson says he will be taking pictures of the algae to the White House.