Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Florida's Martin and St. Lucie counties following the presence of algal blooms in local waterways.
The executive order was signed Wednesday, June 29, 2016. It allows 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 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.
In effect, from Thursday, June 30, lakes north of Lake Okeechobee will start holding back a total of about 20 billion gallons of water that otherwise would flow into Lake Okeechobee and could have ended up feeding algae blooms in the St. Lucie River, TC Palm reports. Scott's order call's for actions to address the blooms that are ruining the river's ecology, devastating water-related businesses and potentially could cause health problems for people who come in contact with the water.
“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," Scott said.
"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,” Scott said in a statement.
A professor at Florida Atlantic University is studying recent algal blooms in Palm Beach County. He said if the algae grow, it could have a huge impact on what the residents eat and where they play:
Featured image: Algal bloom - South Florida - June 2016. Credit: WPTV News - West Palm Beach Florida