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Stuart considers asking for state of emergency

Posted at 6:52 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 18:52:55-05

Stuart city council members unanimously agree to ask Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency.

The news comes days after St. Lucie and Martin Counties made the same decision.

Martin County commissioners signed a resolution on February 9 to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency. St. Lucie County approved the measure on February 16. So far, the governor has not acted on either one of their resolutions.

The news comes as billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee continue to flow east and west from the lake.

Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said the organization installed oyster reefs recently after the waterways in Stuart finally recovered from the Lake Okeechobee discharges in 2013.

"We're now starting to see the die-off of oyster beds and in the outer estuaries the die-off of sea grass beds," said Mark.

He said surrounding communities should follow in the footsteps of Martin, St. Lucie and Stuart in asking the governor to declare a state of emergency.

Mark worries for the future of the local waterways if the discharges continue each year from Lake Okeechobee.

"They get more and more polluted, the bacteria levels build up and it becomes a common occurrence when people are not allowed to go in the water because of their open cuts.They'll get bacterial infections. They won't be able to get any fish out of the water because there won't be any and there won't be any habitat for them," Mark said.

He also worries for the local economy and tourism industry as the discharges continue.

"The more we keep hitting on it, the more harm it does and it doesn't recover as fast as it did."