It's been two weeks since Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie Counties, to speed up water storage projects aimed at alleviating the algae bloom problem caused by releases from Lake Okeechobee. Now that the problem has spread to Southwest Florida waters, the Republican governor is putting much of the blame for the slow fix on Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and the Obama Administration.
"I declared a state of emergency," Scott said Friday. "the President still hasn't."
The Lake O releases by the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the dike between the lake and the Caloosahatchee River, first brought murky water that turned beaches brown on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. Now that green algae blooms have added salt to the wound, Scott believes Nelson should be doing more to heal it.
"I'd like Senator Nelson to show up," Scott said. "Since he's been there, has he made sure the dike got repaired? No. Maintained? No. We need $850 million to fix the dike. The reason why we have the discharges is because the Senator has not done his job to make sure the funding was there."
But Nelson has been addressing the issue lately, and has himself criticized the federal government, accusing the feds of misusing funds that he believes could have gone to buy land south of Lake O to store and filter runoff water.
"They ought to be buying land with Amendment 1 money," he said Thursday at a forum in Washington, attended by activists and concerned citizens who had traveled to D.C. "If we keep the pressure on, we'll get it done, but just remember, it's a complicated thing."
Scott has directed Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity to survey businesses affected by the algae blooms in affected counties, including Lee. An application period for loans to eligible small businesses is open until August 31.