U.S. Senate authorizes reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee - Florida Politics

U.S. Senate authorizes reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Senate authorized a proposal for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which should cut down and potentially eliminate the discharge of blue-green algae into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the news should help Florida deal with the twin catastrophes of algal blooms in the rivers and red tide explosions on the east and west coast.

The Water Resources and Development Act, a massive bill that budgets money for inland waterways and maintenance for America’s locks, damns and ports, passed by a vote of 99-1, Only Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against the bill.

TC Palm reports the bill includes federal funding for the $1.6-billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a solution proposed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Florida Sens. Rubio and Bill Nelson pushed for the reservoir’s including in the water bill this year.

The Army Corps of Engineers schedules discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, which is coated with cyanobacteria, into the adjacent rivers to prevent the flooding of populated areas around the lake, but Nelson called for a complete re-evaluation of the schedule.

A number of environmental groups in the state say there’s a correlation between the blue-green algae and blooms with red tide because nutrients from one feed the other when the water discharges reach estuaries and saltwater.

The water management district said in its proposal use of the reservoir will “reduce damaging discharges to northern estuaries, deliver clean water for Everglades restoration and achieve water quality standards.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said the bill this year included $15 million over five years to identify and develop strategies to fight red tide, and $3 million annually for the Army Corps of Engineers to identify and develop technology to detect, prevent and manage harmful algal blooms.

““Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” said Buchanan. ““We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.  I strongly support efforts to prevent and mitigate this and other algal blooms.”

The bill passed the U.S. House by a unanimous voice vote last month.

President Donald Trump signaled support for the legislation this week and is expected to sign the bill into law.

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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