Lawmakers poised to pour more money into fight to save riversby John Kennedy | September 11th, 2013
A legislative panel is poised to approve spending almost $2.8 million more in coming months to improve pump stations vital to stemming the flow of polluted water to the troubled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
The state’s Legislative Budget Commission is expected Thursday to give state environmental regulators and the South Florida Water Management District authority to spend the money for what the agencies call “short-term policies.”
Nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee has been flowing into the rivers, killing oysters and sea grass and causing a toxic algae outbreak that has forced Martin County health officials to warn residents against coming into contact with the water.
Environmental officials say that improving the pumping stations and storing water on public lands across the region should ease the flow of dirty water into the rivers. The project also could more safely divert Lake Okeechobee water south into the Everglades National Park and out into Florida Bay, officials said.
A heavy rainy season has forced state and federal officials to struggle to keep Lake Okeechobee water levels low to avoid adding pressure to an aged, 143-mile dike that separates the big lake from surrounding farms and residences.