U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) called on Senate leaders this week to immediately take up and pass this year’s water bill that would, among other things, authorize the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to move forward on the Central Everglades Planning Project, or CEPP, designed to send more water south from Lake Okeechobee instead of east and west into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers.
The move comes as several South Florida counties continue to deal with a massive blue-green algae bloom that’s formed along the St. Lucie River.
Nelson, who was in Stuart last week to get a firsthand look at the algae, has called on the state to use Amendment 1 funds to acquire additional land south of the lake to store and clean more water before sending it south into the Everglades. Nelson cited the state’s failure to acquire that land as one reason why congressional action is so urgently needed.
“South Florida is facing a crisis,” Nelson wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “These algae blooms are the result of historic amounts of rain that has forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discharge billions of gallons of nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent the aging Herbert Hoover Dike from failing.”
“Since the state refuses to acquire additional land south of the lake to help store and treat this water before sending it south – as Mother Nature intended – it’s imperative that Congress act now to help solve the problem,” Nelson added. “I strongly urge you to bring this year’s water bill up for a vote as soon as possible so that the Army Corps of Engineers can begin working on CEPP immediately.”
The CEPP project is a $2 billion series of engineering projects intended to collect and channel water around Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades, thereby reducing harmful discharges into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie estuary.