FORT MYERS, Fla. — Water releases from Lake Okeechobee that have led to algae blooms in Southwest Florida and the east coast are a major problem that isn’t easy to fix, Sen. Bill Nelson told a panel of mayors gathered Friday in Fort Myers.
Nelson spoke about the complexity of the issue and said he and others in D.C. continue to work toward solutions, including the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee where flows can be redirected into the Everglades.
“From time to time, we have the algae blooms here,” Nelson said. “It’s not gonna stop until we can do all of these things together.”
Gov. Rick Scott, in Naples on Friday to tout job growth in the area, blasted the senator and said he wasn’t doing enough to fix the aging Hoover Dike that surrounds the lake. Concern over the dike’s ability to keep lake water from flooding the areas immediately surrounding it prompts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
“I’d like Sen. Nelson to show up,” Scott said. “Since he’s been there, has there been any, has he made sure the dike got repaired? No. Maintained? No. We need $850 million to fix the dike.”
Nelson, who didn’t comment on the governor’s remarks, encouraged the mayors to work with legislators to appropriate funds to purchase the land. Cape Coral mayor Marni Retzer, whose city has been hit hard by thick, blue-green algae, said she believes the senator is on the right track.
“He knows what we’re dealing with in Cape Coral, and for me that was key, making sure he understands that while it may be flowing here, and you don’t see it, I have 400 miles of canals, 185 miles which are saltwater, that are seeing the signs of the blue-green algae,” Retzer said.
- Frequently asked questions about algae via the Florida Department of Environmenal Protection: https://depnewsroom.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/freshwater-algal-bloom-faq.pdf
- Lee County Water Quality Status website: http://www.leegov.com/naturalresources/WaterQuality/WaterQualityStatus
- Businesses affected by the algae who need a loan can consult the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University: https://fsbdcswfl.org/