FORT MYERS, Fla.- Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Lee, Martin and St. Lucie counties following heavy rainfall leading to a record amount of water being released from Lake Okeechobee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The negative effects of flood waters and harm to wildlife we are currently witnessing in these counties is only the beginning,” Scott said in a statement.
The governor is also calling on President Obama to fund the more than $800 million in needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
“Our communities are in imminent danger of prolonged flooding and environmental devastation if the dike is ever compromised. Not only is the well-being and health of our families at risk,” Scott said, “but our housing market, tourism industry and agricultural community will fail if the dike is not repaired and properly maintained.”
On Friday, six Southwest Florida mayors held a workshop at Sanibel City Hall to provide an overview of the recent trip some of the leaders made to Washington DC to discuss the water releases.
“If we get a break from mother nature, we can be within 30 days, releases would stop,” said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “What we’re trying to do, is drain the lake quicker.”
“I think this is now where we’re finding we’re all the same, voices the same,” said Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki. “I’m very encouraged.”
However, in regards to more permanent solutions, the mayors say the storage areas needed for excess lake water will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Authorities have also not yet purchased the land to the south of Lake Okeechobe so that portion of a long-term solution could take years.
“What we want to do, is keep continual focus on this and keep continual momentum towards solutions,” said Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson.
Sen. Bill Nelson will arrive in Southwest Florida on Saturday to meet with some of the mayors.