TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott has directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue an Emergency Order urging the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District to take emergency actions to help direct the water flow out of Lake Okeechobee to the south.
"As soon as they stop the discharges, we’ll start seeing the water get clearer and the salt content come way up," said Bob Mark, who lives along the St. Lucie River in Jensen Beach.
Algal blooms have appeared along the St. Lucie estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon since the Army Corps resumed releasing water from Lake Okeechobee this year.
"What I’m concerned about is that 100-square mile plume that’s at the lake ready to come down the St. Lucie River," Mark said. "That’s what’s scaring me. If that happened, it would wipe the summer out."
"It’s still coming our way and we’re going to see it," said Tom Nolin, who lives in Riverland off Kanner Highway. "It's not good."
Governor Scott said, “In previous years, we have seen algae blooms develop in our waterways due to the federal water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers directs these discharges when the Dike is nearing capacity and at risk of breaching. Unfortunately, the federal government has had decades to fix the Dike that they operate, but have failed to do so. In response, I have put up state funding to fix the federal Dike and I have secured an agreement from the Trump Administration to expedite the repairs. Also, working with the Florida Legislature, I signed a law that accelerated the EAA reservoir to move more water south of the Lake, to help ease these discharges. But, while we continue to wait on the federal government’s action on the Dike and EAA reservoir, we are going to do all we can to protect our waterways as we enter the hot summer months in Florida."
The governor continued, “With this order, and the cooperation of the Army Corps and other federal agencies, the State will continue to work to mitigate and minimize the impacts of algal blooms we witnessed in the past. We will continue to fight to secure federal action and urge the federal government to authorize the EAA Reservoir and fully fund the Herbert Hoover Dike repairs.”
Hearing the governor take a stance on directing water south affirms what people in Stuart have been saying for years.
"It would be great to see it go south," Nolin said. "It should’ve been going south a long time ago."
But tensions are still high along the St. Lucie River until a permanent change is made.
"I’m really nervous that nothing is going to be done. Same thing that happened last year and the year before and the year before, empty promises," Mark said.