FORT MYERS, Fla. – Emergency bipartisan legislation filed by Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) on Wednesday would set aside $800 million to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, which holds the water from Lake Okeechobee.
The amount is the same that Gov. Rick Scott requested from the federal government last week to fix the dike.
The ongoing controversial water releases are to help alleviate pressure on the dike.
“These discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers pollute our waterways, destroy our fragile ecosystems, devastate our tourism economy, and pose an immediate public safety crisis,” Clawson said in a statement. “The pictures of our Gulf waters in Southwest Florida are shocking, and to see it up close, as I do from Bonita Beach, is heartbreaking.”
The bill also calls for repairs by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be completed by 2020, which Clawson described as a “four to six year overall improvement by current estimates.”
Florida Democratic representatives Patrick Murphy and Alcee Hastings, as well as Republican Vern Buchanan, also signed on to the bill. Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane responded to Clawson’s legislation with his full support.
Recent rainfall has resulted in record water levels at the lake, forcing the Corps of Engineers to release maximum levels of brown, murky water into the aforementioned rivers. The water has made for an eyesore on Gulf beaches, which residents, local officials and environmentalists say has negatively impacted the area’s economy and ecology.
The water releases led Scott to declare a state of emergency for Lee, Martin and St. Lucie counties last week. On Wednesday, he announced the opening of a business emergency operations center to access the releases’ impact on area businesses.
Businesses impacted by the releases can complete a survey, which includes options to learn more about business loans and counseling.