U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio today called on President Donald Trump to stop discharges into the St. Lucie River that are planned to start tomorrow.
The Miami Republican also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to re-evaluate water flows from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River.
Rubio’s request comes as algal blooms pose a fresh but familiar threat to coastal communities and resources.
“I respectfully urge you to use your authority to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately include the impacts of harmful algal blooms and poor water quality on downstream communities and ecosystems as a major factor for consideration when planning and conducting Lake Okeechobee discharges,” Rubio wrote in a letter to Trump.
“This should include an emergency re-evaluation of the flows currently entering the Caloosahatchee River and the reconsideration of the decision to once again begin discharging flows to the St. Lucie River tomorrow.”
Rubio did offer some praise to the corps for funding $514 million for rehabilitating the Herbert Hoover Dike near Clewiston.
“However, even as the small cities and towns in the Herbert Hoover Dike’s shadow now have reason for hope,” Rubio wrote, “coastal communities on the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon, and the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary face another nightmarish summer of poor water quality and algae stoked by the Lake Okeechobee discharges.”
On Friday, members of the Lee County legislative delegation called on Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency because of algal blooms in the Caloosahatchee.
“Blue-green algae has been reported in East Lee County, Downtown Fort Myers, North Fort Myers, and Cape Coral,” reads a letter penned by state Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican. “The bloom’s impact affects not only those areas but the tourism market on the barrier islands of Lee County as well.”
Rubio’s letter to Trump says those blooms, coupled with the corps’ current water management practices, pose a cause for concern to downstream residents.
“While the completed rehabilitation of the dike could potentially allow the corps to adjust the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) that determines when and how discharges are conducted, these communities are desperate for immediate relief,” Rubio writes.
Specifically, Rubio requested Trump to order an emergency re-evaluation of water flow management into the Caloosahatchee and to reconsider allowing discharging flows into the St. Lucie set to begin Monday.
Rubio also called on the administration to double the federal investment in Everglades restoration infrastructure for the 2020 fiscal year to accelerate the design and construction of the Central Everglades Planning Project and the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir.
The senator also made a geographic appeal to Trump, who sometimes references his Mar-a-Lago home as the “Southern White House.”
“Perhaps more than any of your predecessors in the Oval Office, you personally understand the economic importance of maintaining Florida’s alluring coastal resources,” Rubio wrote.