Governor declares state of emergency in St. Lucie and Martin Counties following algal blooms

 

 

Today, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 16-155 declaring a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties following the presence of algal blooms in local waterways. The Executive Order will allow state and local governmental agencies to take swift action to mitigate the spread of algal blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries by redirecting the flow of water in and out of Lake Okeechobee. Governor Scott is also directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to take specific actions to address the issues caused by blooms. To view Executive Order 16-155, click HERE.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Today, I am declaring a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties to expedite water storage projects to alleviate the proliferation of algal blooms. The order also allows the South Florida Water Management District to reduce the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee through additional water storage projects. In addition to our Executive Order, I am calling on the federal government to speedily approve permits for our dispersed water management programs. I am also asking DEP and FWC to take actions to address the issues caused by algal blooms in South Florida waterways, including developing a hotline for residents to report algal blooms and deploying teams of additional staff to more rapidly survey and sample areas impacted by blooms.

“Florida’s waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait. Because the Obama Administration has failed to act on this issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae which is now entering residential waterways in South Florida. Although the President has failed to do what is needed to address this growing issue, the State of Florida will devote every available resource to find solutions for the families and businesses in this area.”

Gov. Scott is directing DEP to take the following actions:

  • Deploy teams of additional staff to more rapidly survey and sample areas impacted by algal blooms.
  • Purchase On-Site Microsystin Testing Kits which allow field staff to perform faster, preliminary tests for toxins on site. These kits will provide information about the sampled algae more quickly and allow preliminary health advisories to be issued.
  • Launch a Bloom Reporting Hotline. DEP will be establishishing a hotline for citizens to call to report algal blooms, allowing staff to quickly respond to areas with a suspected bloom.

Gov. Scott is directing FWC to take the following action:

  • Continue deploying FWC Research Institute staff to survey and sample any suspected blooms offshore. At this time, no offshore blooms have been confirmed.

Gov. Scott is directing the South Florida Water Management District take the following actions:

  • Store additional water north of Lake Okeechobee in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
  • Work with state and community partners to explore every opportunity to increase water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee.
  • Store additional water through dispersed water storage projects.

Florida has invested more than $688 million in Everglades restoration over the past five years and will continue to invest up to $200 million a year under the Legacy Florida bill which Governor Scott signed into law this year. The State of Florida has invested nearly $2 billion in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and $1.8 billion in providing clean water to the Everglades.  To date, the federal government is $880 million behind in its share of CERP funding.

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “We want to make sure our coastal communities know we are doing everything possible to help mitigate the environmental and resulting economic impacts of this algae. I applaud the Governor’s leadership and am grateful for his dedication to our environment.”

Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli said, “I applaud Governor Scott for cutting through red tape in order to expedite the construction of crucial water storage projects in Martin County and St. Lucie County that the Legislature funded this Session. We know that storing water north, east, and west of Lake Okeechobee is the key to reducing damaging discharges. I am confident that the South Florida Water Management District will be able to bring these projects to fruition. It will take time, but thanks to Governor Scott and the District, we will not have to needlessly wait for relief.”

Senate President-Designate Joe Negron said, “I want to thank Governor Scott for recognizing the catastrophic impact this blue-green algae is having on our community. Our beaches and water are polluted and our way of life has been dramatically impacted. The Governor’s quick action today reflects his commitment to making certain our community has the resources we need to address this disaster as quickly as possible.”

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