Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued an emergency order to fight algal blooms caused by Lake Okeechobee water discharges.
He said the order affects Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.
“As governor, it is my duty to protect Floridians, no matter what it takes. Today, our state is once again facing a crisis from water releases controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This has prompted me to issue an emergency declaration, so our state agencies can do everything in their power to minimize the harmful impacts these releases are having on our communities," Gov. Scott said in a statement.
His order will allow agencies to waive various restrictions and regulations to store water in additional areas south of Lake Okeechobee.
The emergency order is designed to do the following, according to the Governor's Office.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
The Governor has directed DEP to dedicate more staffing to water testing and sampling. Other actions include a statewide hotline (855-305-3903) for the public to report issues with algae, and a website [floridadep.gov] so Floridians can be fully informed on the location of algal blooms and results of water testing.
The Governor has directed DEP to establish a grant program to provide local governments with funding to contract clean up services.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
FWC’s Research Institute will dedicate more staff to support DEP’s water testing and sampling.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH)
The Governor has directed DOH to enhance community outreach efforts. Also, DOH is prepared to enhance the use of signage to keep Floridians and the state’s visitors informed on the dangers of algal blooms.
VISIT FLORIDA will do outreach to tourism partners in the affected areas to identify ways to minimize the impact to the state’s tourism industry.
Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO)
The Governor has directed DEO to identify businesses who could be affected by the harmful algal blooms. DEO will work hand-in-hand with local businesses and business support organizations to provide resources and assistance to any Florida business impacted by algal blooms.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
The Governor has directed FDOT to identify any road works projects that can be initiated or accelerated to assist with flood control and water direction in communities surrounding the lake and its water sources.
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
Using this emergency declaration, DEP will work with the SFWMD to identify additional storage north and south of Lake Okeechobee, including the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to decrease water inflows and help to reduce water levels in the Lake. These actions include:
Using the S-5A Pump Station in Palm Beach County to move 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) out of the L-8 Canal to prevent water from flowing back into Lake Okeechobee.
Moving water to tide through every available structure, including the Hillsboro, North New River and Miami canals.
Using the S-34 Structure to move 200 cfs out of Water Conservation Area 2A into the North New River in Broward County.
Fully utilizing the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin and L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, both components of Gov. Scott's Restoration Strategies Plan, to store water.
Storing water on public lands through the Dispersed Water Management program.
Working with private landowners to store water on their properties.
Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)
The Governor has directed FDEM to host regular calls with county emergency management officials to ensure that all needs are met. FDEM will stand ready to support any local emergency operations.