Lawmakers take action on Lake O pollution

Posted at 11:03 PM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-28 10:55:02-05

Calling it a problem years in the making, Senator Bill Nelson and Rep. Curt Clawson have a plan to deal with water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

Both lawmakers are introducing bills Monday geared at accelerating the process of diverting some of this water south through the Everglades.  

Since the 1920's water has been released into the Caloosahatchee River when lake levels get too high.  The interaction of these bodies of water causes pollution along Southwest Florida beaches.

Rep. Clawson says his legislation will fast track a project to build more reservoirs so water can be stored along Lake Okeechobee, rather than discharged.  

"I'm going to support this, conservative or not.  Does everybody understand that? Because this what we are about," said the Bonita Springs Republican.

Senator Nelson says he will ask congress for more money to help raise a three mile section of Tamiami Trail, so water released from the lake, can freely flow through the Everglades.

"Raising the level of the water at Tamiami Trail a foot, from 7 and a half to 8 and half feet, to get it under the bridge, then this is going to give it some relief," said the three term Democrat.

Both lawmakers met with mayors from 8 Southwest Florida cities Saturday.  Many of those mayors made a trip to Washington D.C. this week to lobby congress.

"We obviously want to see a water bill, we want to have more water holed up on the lake.  We also want to have more water held north of the lake," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane.

This entire project could take 15 to 30 years.  Senator Nelson is hoping for some short term relief in the meantime

 "If the good Lord will spare us a lot of rain that is putting the pressure on the dike in Lake Okeechobee, plus releasing some water to the south that they would not normally release."

Senator Nelson is also asking state legislators to tap into the Land Acquisition Fund so it can buy lands around the lake and designate them for water release.  Congressman Clawson says if state lawmakers don't act on this, congress may do so on its own.