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Water at a crisis level: St. Lucie Declares State of Emergency

Water at a crisis level: St. Lucie Declares State of Emergency
Water at a crisis level: St. Lucie Declares State of Emergency
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Water so high in enteric bacteria, a sign of fecal contamination, you can't swim in it or even get it on your skin.

Another Treasure Coast county declares a State of Emergency, asking the governor to take all necessary actions to the save the Indian River Lagoon.

St. Lucie County Commissioners unanimously passed the declaration, enacting a State of Emergency declaration now for 2 counties.

Both Martin and St. Lucie County leaders are waiting on the Governor to approve or deny it.

St. Lucie County Commissioners call it a crisis.

To date, 30 billion gallons of polluted water poured in the S-80 locks in western Stuart from Lake Okeechobee and nearby canals.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, who manage the lake levels, say with record rainfall in January, there's no end in sight for the unfiltered freshwater releases for weeks.

Today, St. Lucie County Commissioners joined with Martin County declaring a state of emergency for the estuary and Indian River lagoon, demanding compensation for the businesses impacted, as well as all necessary resources to save the environment.

"It's a shame we are here again," said Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, St Lucie County Commissioner Chairman, "This is both a federal and state problem, and so the more attention we bring to it, the better chances of a positive result."

Both counties have all river accesses posted for high bacteria levels, warning boaters not to even touch the water or risk getting sick. The health warning extends the entire length of the St Lucie River's North and South forks.

At stake is compensation for the victims of the pollution pouring in. Meanwhile, the water quality here continues its demise.

"When you are down there by Taylor Creek and they've got it wide open and you are out there trying to fish in the inlet and its just this brown filthy nastiness that's coming in the river," said fisherman Rob Harris, who is talking about the canals pouring into the Indian River Lagoon near the Fort Pierce Inlet, "we have to do a better job of taking care of it. It's got to last for future generations and if its just killing the seagrass and fish and everything elseit's not going to be there for us. It's not going to be there for our kids."

At stake is a $3.8 billion local economy dependent on the waterways, directly supplying 15,000 jobs. The St. Lucie River is part of the larger Indian River Lagoon system, the most diverse estuarine environment in North America with more than 4,000 plant and animal species, including manatees, oysters, dolphins, sea turtles and seahorses.

Governor Rick Scott wants water moved south to keep wildlife, including deer and panthers, from drowning in the flooded conservation areas. Today the ACOE raised the water levels of the L-29 canal, which runs parallel to the Tamiami Trail, to help reduce the negative impact heavy rainfall has caused throughout the entire Everglades system, including the discharges east and west from the lake that are harming the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon on the Treasure Coast.

U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) applauded the announcement made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that they will increase flows from Lake Okeechobee south into Everglades National Park.

"I have been in close contact with the Army Corps of Engineers, environmental organizations, and federal, state, local, and tribal officials across the state to discuss what immediate actions can be taken to address the ongoing crisis in our waterways. 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," Rep. Murphy said.


Releases began January 30, 2016.

On February 10, 2016, the Florida Department of Health released a public advisory urging residents to avoid contact with the North Fork of the St. Lucie River due to high enteric bacteria levels.

On February 11, 2016, Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to the Secretary of the US Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the Corps take immediate action to relieve the flooding in the Everglades Water Conservation Areas and the releases of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries.

February 16, 2016 the Board asked the Governor declare an emergency so that the Counties can proceed to seek direct assistance with any and all agencies of the State of Florida as may be needed to meet this emergency.

Starting today, the ACOE is sending more water south to the everglades through a series of canals in Miami-Dade county,


But so far no cash or any economic relief is coming this way. Commissioners say they will continue to push for economic relief and for clean water.

Emergency demands:

1. St. Lucie County requests that the Governor of the State of Florida consider issuing an Executive Order, and/or other powers available under law, to activate all available State and Local emergency and relief resources and mechanisms to protect the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Estuary.

2. The St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners requests that the State release funds to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD ) for temporary pumping and redirection of water to maximum capacity on SFWMD designated lands or other state lands, including but not limited to the Holey Land and Rotenberger tracts, and Water Conservation Areas.

3. The St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners requests that the State and Federal Government provide economic assistance to the businesses damaged by the discharges.

4. The S t. Lucie Count y Board of County Commissioners supports the passage of HB 989/ SB 1168 "Legacy Florida," providing dedicated funding for Everglades restoration an d funding in the House and Senate to provide short and long term storage and water quality treatment options.

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5. The St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners request the Legislature use Amendment 1 funds for design of 507, 000 acre-feet of additional storage, treatment, and conveyance south of Lake Okeechobee, and for the associated purchase of identified land for said storage to re direct water that would otherwise be discharged into the estuaries, away from the estuaries, as recommended in the 2015 Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Move More Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Southern Everglades.

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