Scott visits slimy coast, Democrats call out the governor’s new election-year environmental conversion

    Gov. Rick Scott traveled to southeast Florida today where nasty fluorescent green algae is blanketing waterways around Stuart, but he declined to speak to reporters “due to security issues,” according to TC Palm reporter Ali Schmitz, who videotaped Scott’s 30-second cruise across a slimed marina basin.

    The governor has been desperate to paint himself as an environmental advocate as he runs for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, but environmentalists, fishing advocates, and Democrats are having none of Scott’s election-year conversion.

    “To see Rick Scott stand up now and act like he’s been doing something about this is an embarrassment,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who represented the area Scott visited Friday. “He’s done nothing but hurt the environment.”

    Murphy participated in a conference call with Florida media, along with Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director Aliki Moncrief, and scientist John Capece.

    Both the east and west coasts are being slimed by a pollution-fueled massive toxic algae outbreak that’s getting national media coverage as it wrecks waterfront communities and devastates tourism-dependent businesses. Thousands of dead sea creatures, including dolphins, manatees, and fish and even a whale have been washing up on shores.

    The polluted water – filled with fertilizer, manure and sewage runoff – is being released from Lake Okeechobee to the coasts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the lake level from getting too high and endangering rural communities with flooding. As it flows down the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast and the St. Lucie River on the east coast, it’s causing an eco-disaster.

    Scott has blamed the federal government for the problems, which Murphy said is absurd. “He didn’t even work with the feds,” Murphy said, adding that Scott administration officials “are not even enforcing the (Florida environmental) laws and they are not going after the bad actors.”

    Capece, the scientist, said it is ridiculous for Scott to tout the taxpayer money he’s earmarking to fix the aging dike around Lake Okeechobee as any sort of environmental fix. The dike is for containing floodwaters, and won’t help the environment at all, he said. Under environmental rules that have been in place for many years, water levels can’t be held too high in the lake because it will drown the lake’s edges and illegally impact wildlife.

    “The governor, a denier of climate change, a denier of science, is using deliberate misinformation by embarking on this campaign of blaming the federal government and pretending that the Lake Okeechobee dike is the solution to this problem,” Capece said.

    Scott’s office released the following statement:  “Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Joe Negron to tour the St. Lucie River and areas impacted by blue-green algae caused by Lake Okeechobee water releases controlled by the federal government. The Governor is providing $700,000 in funding to Martin County to help clean up algal blooms. This funding is part of a $3 million grant program directed by Governor Scott through the emergency order he issued last month.

    Last month, the Governor toured the Caloosahatchee River and areas on the west coast of Florida that are seeing impacts. In June, Governor Scott visited the South Florida Water Management District, was briefed on the algae blooms and directed DEP to take additional steps to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee.”

     

    Julie Hauserman
    Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

    1 COMMENT

    1. Ok, I’m not up on this problem so I’ll as a dumb question. From the text: “The polluted water – filled with fertilizer, manure and sewage runoff – is being released from Lake Okeechobee to the coasts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep the lake level from getting too high and endangering rural communities with flooding.” The question is, what SHOULD be done with the high water? Obviously, not just dumped into the ocean, but WHAT?

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