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Sen. Nelson visits Southwest Florida to talk about water pollution

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-06 14:30:06-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Could President Trump hold the key to fixing the algae blooms showing up in our local water?  Senator Bill Nelson says yes.

The U.S. Senator came to Fort Myers on Thursday to address the issue and says there is a way to keep polluted water from Lake Okeechobee from flowing into the Caloosahatchee River and along our coast. 

But Nelson says the Trump administration would have to put up some of the money to make it happen.

There was a round of applause at the City Pier Building as Senator Nelson showed up to address local elected officials, environmentalists, and others concerned about the algae, which could be seen right outside the building where they met.

"It's very visible from the air."  He started the day with a plane ride over area waterways and saw strands of blue-green algae blooms floating down the Caloosahatchee River.

He says there are solutions in the works and focused on two areas where extra water could be stored.  "Projects are underway. But we're talking about something 240,000 acre-feet of water, we're talking about a reservoir out here south of LaBelle that's 6 by 8 miles wide. That takes time to complete."

That one south of LaBelle is called the C-43 Reservoir

Marisa Carrozzo with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida says the idea is to store excess water there. "The goal of this reservoir is to take some water off the high flow times during the rainy season and hold it, and be able to release it during the dry season."

But that won't be done for another 4 years. 

The other project they talked about, known as the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, would take even longer.  It would go south of the lake and it could reduce lake discharges by around 50-60%.

Allowing water managers to send the water south, would mean less water going east and west.  We're told the state funding for this is in place, but that's only half the equation.

Senator Nelson says the White House needs to authorize the project and pay for the other half it before anything can happen.  Nelson says that money is available through the Federal Hurricane Disaster Relief funds, and it's up to President Trump's budget director to decide if this is disastrous enough to use that money.

"If the White House will not delay it, we have the money, and it's sitting on the table and ready to go."

If that project is approved it would take about 10 years to complete.