Governor Rick Scott today directed Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein to issue an Emergency Order urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to take emergency actions to help redirect the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee to the south. This order is in response to the Army Corps decision to release water from Lake Okeechobee west to the Caloosahatchee River and east to the St. Lucie River estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon. Since the Army Corps began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee this year, DEP has continued to respond to reports of algal blooms in both rivers, as well as continued reports on Lake Okeechobee.
Governor Scott said, “In previous years, we have seen algae blooms develop in our waterways due to the federal water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers directs these discharges when the Dike is nearing capacity and at risk of breaching. Unfortunately, the federal government has had decades to fix the Dike that they operate, but have failed to do so. In response, I have put up state funding to fix the federal Dike and I have secured an agreement from the Trump Administration to expedite the repairs. Also, working with the Florida Legislature, I signed a law that accelerated the EAA reservoir to move more water south of the Lake, to help ease these discharges. But, while we continue to wait on the federal government’s action on the Dike and EAA reservoir, we are going to do all we can to protect our waterways as we enter the hot summer months in Florida.
“Today, I am directing DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein to issue a Secretarial Emergency Order urging the Army Corps and SFWMD to take emergency actions to lower lake levels and help redirect the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee to the south. Two years ago, we saw the devastating impact of releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries which caused widespread algal blooms and led to the declaration of a state of emergency in four counties. We are taking immediate action to do everything in our power to solve this problem.
“With this order, and the cooperation of the Army Corps and other federal agencies, the State will continue to work to mitigate and minimize the impacts of algal blooms we witnessed in the past. We will continue to fight to secure federal action and urge the federal government to authorize the EAA Reservoir and fully fund the Herbert Hoover Dike repairs.”
Under Governor Scott’s leadership, the state has made historic progress with restoration projects that will provide billions of gallons of water storage and clean water for the Everglades and local communities and more than $1.8 billion has been invested by the State of Florida in restoring the Everglades. This includes $32 million in recurring state funding as a part of the Governor’s $880 million Everglades water quality plan.
The Governor’s 2018 Securing Florida’s Future budget invests more than $293 million for Everglades restoration related projects. More than $187 million of this investment will contribute to water storage projects, which will collectively provide more than 260 billion gallons of water storage when complete and operational. This includes significant funding to continue moving forward critical projects like the C-43 Reservoir and EAA Reservoir.
Last year, during the past Special Legislative Session, Governor Scott fought for and secured $50 million in state funding to speed up repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike – becoming the first Florida governor to invest state dollars to expedite repairs to this federal project. To build on this investment, and with the commitment of President Trump to accelerate the completion of repairs, the Securing Florida’s Future budget invests an additional $50 million of state funds to further expedite this process. With this funding, the state’s total investment grows to $100 million.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said, “We want to take every step possible to allow the Army Corps and water management district to proactively address high water levels and move more water south and away from our communities. While Lake releases will continue to depend on the Army Corps’ water operations, the state is committed to providing flexibility to the Army Corps, while also standing alongside Floridians.”
As high water continues in the water conservation areas south of the Lake, this order will allow additional flexibility for the water management district and Army Corps to work together to explore emergency actions to reduce discharges to our coastal estuaries. Prior to the Army Corps’ releases, the SFWMD has been maximizing opportunities to lower water levels in all three water conservation areas south of the Lake and this emergency order will provide additional opportunities to move clean water out of the water conservations areas to the south. SFWMD continues to make use of all available water storage, including recently completed components of Governor Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan, such as the A-1 and L-8 Flow Equalization basins.