The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reduced the amount of murky water released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. For months, they've been dumping billions of gallons of water per day to reduce the lake's level, which was caused by heavy January rains.
The lake's level currently sits at just over 15 feet, down from it's peak of just over 16 feet in February. The Army Corps of Engineers prefers it to be near the 12-foot mark.
Last week, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Lee, Martin and St. Lucie counties, all affected by the water releases.
"We're doing everything we can at the state, but ultimately the federal government's got to step up," Scott said Thursday in Marco Island. "We're moving the water south, we're adding stormwater treatment areas. But they have got to fund the dike."
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is asking businesses along the coast to complete a Business Damage Assessment Survey. The intent of the survey is to help them identify and appropriate disaster relief programs for businesses hurt by the Lake O releases, which are fouling the waters in the Caloosahatchee and in the Gulf of Mexico near the river's mouth.
Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Curt Clawson is proposing three bills that could put an end to these water releases. The first would give the Army Corps of Engineers five years to finish the Hoover Dike at Lake O. The second would ask the federal government to buy lands north and south of the lake.
The third bill would temporarily exempt the Endangered Species Act, which prevents water from being released south of the lake.