Marco Rubio addresses water issues in Southwest Florida

Posted at 7:14 AM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 21:53:06-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Water worries are shutting down the summer fun at one SWFL swimming spot.  The Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach remains closed as officials fear the water could harm you.  It's reasons like this that Senator Marco Rubio set his sights on our coastline Monday morning. 

Senator Rubio met with local officials in Fort Myers Monday to discuss the Lake Okeechobee water releases and their effects on the Caloosahatchee River.
Among a room full of leaders and press sat Captain Daniel Andrews, who runs a charter business to make a living.
"That river right there made me into who I am today," Andrews said. "I mean every dollar I made, my truck, my house was all paid for by the money I made off the water." He says while there are still great spots to fish, he has been challenged by cancelations. 
"It's sickening, every time I go out in the water and see dead fish, dead oysters, dead sea grass, whatever it is," he said. "It's been tough for business. I've had a lot of clients that had me booked for three or four days and after the first day of fishing, when times were really bad they weren't too excited about going."
Andrews also has a non-profit organization Captains For Clean Water. He says his goal to find a solution to restore our waters. 
"It's important to me that future generations get to experience what I experienced."
Andrews sat in on a meeting where senator Marco Rubio and local leaders discussed water issues southwest Florida is facing. Senator Rubio says when it comes to solutions, the best place to start is by passing a water bill that's been talked about for a long time. 
The water bill would allow for the Central Everglades Planning Project to take off.
"The Central Everglades Planning Project will allow the engineers and the experts to go out and begin to do the necessary work to put in the engineering plans to build more of these engineering plans to build more of this retention capabilities, set up the transfer of lands. It'll be like 15 thousand acres of sugar land south of lake Okeechobee that's part of that transfer."
If the bill passes in September, the second step is getting congress to pay for it which will take time. Four In Your Corner asked Senator Rubio if there is an immediate solution to look forward to in the meantime. 
"The immediate solution is one of the things that's happening now, and its not a total solution, but it's the ability to release less water that's being released now."
The Health Department tests local waters for human pathogens as part of their Healthy Beaches program. According to their website, all Lee County beaches are in "good" condition for swimming. When FOX 4 asked if it was safe to swim in the water with recent releases from Lake Okeechobee, we were referred to the Environmental Protection Agency. 
FOX 4 reached out to the EPA and were directed back to the DOH, so we asked Senator Rubio why it's been difficult to get a straight answer. 
"I don't know the extent the EPA has been invited in and different communities to test the water quality. That largely has depended upon the state department of health and local departments of health to make those determinations."
Senator Rubio reassured Four In Your Corner he would be willing to ask for any results that could answer this question, adding, he will not rest until our waters are clean. 
"We got to get this water bill done in September and then we have to follow up and get the money for it later."

Senator Rubio met with local officials in Fort Myers to discuss the Lake Okeechobee water releases and their effects on the Caloosahatchee River.

This weekend, Cape Coral mayor Marnie Retzer made the announcement to shut down the yacht club beach on her Facebook page, saying it's closed for swimming.

Clean water activist John Heim says that if water flows from the lake continue, the water problems in Southwest Florida will continue to get worse. "It certainly is a potential for a complete outbreak, very similar to what the east coast experienced," Heim said. "I'm not a betting man, but I would almost bet that this will bloom into just what they had over there in the east coast when it comes to the blue part of the green algae."

MORE COVERAGE: Fox 4 Toxic Water page

You can watch her live stream from the meeting below.