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Rep. Murphy files emergency action to fund dike repairs; gains President's backing

Photo provided by Congressman's Press Office

A state of emergency is declared for three counties in the state tonight, with water so polluted you can't touch it.

U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy filed an emergency measure to get immediate action on federal projects. The lake levels remain dangerously high for the near-Lake Okeechobee residents, coastal counties are covered in black bacteria-ridden water discharged from the Okeechobee Waterway. The discharges take pressure off the aging dike that surrounds the lake.

The congressman says both sides of the aisle in Washington are working to fund and fix the dike, but the Amendment 1 money "you voted for and passed is being squandered and not going to fix this problem," Rep. Murphy said.

Governor Rick Scott blamed the federal government for not doing its fair share to fund Everglades Restoration Projects, demanding $800 million from Washington.

"What I tell a lot of my colleagues in Washington, even if you don't care about the environment as much as I do, you should care about the economy and its all connected. So much of our economy is built on tourism," said Rep. Murphy, "I think pointing fingers, blaming others is the last way to get anything done."

"We need a lot more from the state and a lot more from the federal government. Both need to come together and reprioritize the everglades. This is an emergency situation," Rep. Murphy said.

Treating the pollution of our waterways as an emergency, Rep. Murphy and a bi-partisan delegation are trying to press for action.

"We put forward legislation to ask for emergency funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike." Rep. Murphy said, "They've been at this for years and years and spent hundreds of millions of dollars--we got to get this thing done, whether it's the culverts or the fortification of that dike--whatever inch the dike can hold is millions and billions of gallons that won't be discharged."

But, State legislators are funding $900 million of Everglades improvements. Federal partners agreed to split the bill 50-50. Congress has yet to match that number. But, when it comes to having pull in D.C., Congressman Murphy has a strong ally, the President, who endorsed Murphy for Senate last week and promised to lend his support.

"And with this devastation in the backyard, I tried to say 'Mr. President, if Martin County, St. Lucie County were on fire right now, there would be news helicopters every day from all over the world. We are drowning. This is an equally important emergency.' " Rep. Murphy said, "I think Amendment 1, the money is there, and that is what it was intended for. We have got to do more to spend that money on conservation here in Florida."

Murphy says his run for Senate is in part to gain a greater voice to fix the water problems in our State, "Unfortunately senator Rubio hasn't been there for this issue and has not been a voice for us, and when you are a US Senator and call the Army Corps or EPA or US Fish and Wildlife, or call the Governor--you get a response and you get some action."

"I applaud the Corps for working diligently to take action to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee," said Murphy. "While we continue to work together on short-term solutions to this immediate crisis, I remain committed to making sure we move forward on critical projects like the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) that will move more clean water south and repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike so more water can be safely stored in the lake, both of which will help reduce the need for discharges east and west. These long-term solutions are needed to restore the natural flow of the Everglades south to address a decades-old problem that continues to hurt our community year after year."

Congressman Murphy says climate change and extreme weather is only going to make funding these projects more necessary. He says the voter-approved Amendment 1 funding for land conservation to fix this issue and send water south, "is being squandered ."

Rep. Murphy sent a letter to leadership in the Florida Legislature in support of legislation allocating Amendment 1 Land Acquisition Trust Fund dollars for Everglades restoration projects that will benefit local waterways by cleaning, storing, and moving more water south of Lake Okeechobee

"Our waterways are once again in crisis after heavy rainfall has led to massive runoff, with discharges from Lake Okeechobee polluting the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. While I continue to push for funding and authorization of critical Everglades restoration projects on the federal level, we also have more work to do on the state level," said Rep. Murphy. "I am disappointed to see that after 75 percent of voters - 4.2 million Floridians - voted for Amendment 1, this funding has not been used to advance land acquisition and conservation efforts. I am proud to support legislation introduced by my Treasure Coast colleagues State Senator Joe Negron and State Representative Gayle Harrell to make sure these funds are used as Florida voters intended, improving the health of our local waterways and the entire Everglades system."

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