VIDEO: Sen. Marco Rubio Tours Algae Bloom Plaguing Waterways, Seeks Emergency Declaration
By Space Coast Daily // July 4, 2016
Rubio Outlines four step plan to fix algae bloom
ABOVE VIDEO: Senator Marco Rubio Rubio flew over the St. Lucie Lock and Dam where the water from Lake Okeechobee flows east into Treasure Coast waterways. Rubio was able to see firsthand the algae problem that is affecting the area. (WPTV News )
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FLORIDA – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio visited the Treasure Coast to view the Lake Okeechobee discharges through the St. Lucie Lock, St. Lucie River and the inlet/beaches, and to observe the algae bloom firsthand.
After a waterway tour and ground tour, the Senator outlined ways to solve the harmful and toxic algae issue plaguing the Treasure Coast.
Rubio toured the St. Lucie county area by air and boat. His boat ride was on the St. Lucie River and Inlet and was spent looking at beaches where the algae is washing up. At a heavily attended news conference, Rubio spoke about the long-lasting impact of what is occurring.
“This is beyond an ecological disaster,” said Rubio.
“It’s an economic disaster with long-term implications. If I believed the sugar industry was the only contributor to this, we’d do everything we could. They’re not the only ones.
“This is a catastrophic situation, I don’t know if there’s a precedent for this situation anywhere in the country that’s ever been faced to this magnitude when it comes to an algae bloom. So, certainly, we want to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen.”
Rubio went on to say, “Look, I get people’s anger and frustration. My goodness, I mean when we went down to a homeowner who had a beautiful piece of property and his backyard, his little beachfront that he has there, his dock area, it smelled and looked like an open sewage pit.
“The impact this is going to have on tourism, the impact this is going to have on property values, the impact that it’s having on small businesses. I met a capitan on a small little sailboat that hasn’t been able to go out in two weeks. This is the peak season for him and he’s not going to make any money for two weeks. Who can sustain that?
Rubio issued a four-point “immediate” solution to the problem.
Rubio would like the Army Corps of engineers to get involved to stop flows and help flush out the algae. He would like to see an immediate emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, which would up the full portfolio of aid that the federal government can provide local businesses and communities that are being impacted.
However, the emergency declaration from the president would need to be requested by Gov. Scott, and Rubio said it is his understanding the governor is planning to do that.
Rubio also wants a current water bill passed so the Central Everglades Planning Project can move forward and make some of the things happen that are needed to help take care of the issues causing the algae.
Rubio would also like the the Center for Disease Control, or an appropriate healthcare agency at the federal level, to come to Florida and do an assessment of the long-term health risks posed by this algae bloom.
Not everyone was happy to see Rubio, or liked what he had to say. Protesters gathered in Stuart urging Rubio to take action and help send the water discharges south.
Michael Connor, a spokesman for the group Bullsugar.org, which is dedicated to stopping the damaging discharges into the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and restoring the flow of clean freshwater to Florida Bay, is frustrated with the lack of response and all politicians.
“I’m not satisfied with the movement done by the government in the last few days. Governor Scott made a declaration of emergency, but it does very little to stop the discharges,” said Conner.
“It ramps them down a few million gallons but it’s still not going to stop the discharges. This is a result of years and years of neglect.”
Following his visit, Rubio wrote to Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). Darcy establishes policy direction and provides supervision of the Department of the Army functions relating to all aspects of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, including all reimbursable work performed on behalf of Federal and non-Federal entities.
These responsibilities include programs for conservation and development of the nation’s water and wetland resources, flood control, navigation, and shore protection.
People who work and live near the algae have complained of burning eyes and scratchy throats. Emergency declarations have been made by the Martin County Commission, the city of Stuart and the state.
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