Rick Scott requests federal state of emergency declaration in response to algae blooms

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One week after declaring a state of emergency in four Florida counties, Gov. Rick Scott is calling on President Barack Obama to do the same.

In a letter Wednesday, Scott requested Obama declare a federal emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act because of the “public health and safety threats associated with the unnatural discharges of nutrient-laden freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the canals that flow east into the Indian River Lagoon and west into the Caloosahatchee.”

“It is the federal government’s sole responsibility to maintain and repair the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike,” said Scott in his letter. “Consequently, any damage caused by unnecessary water released due to the federal government’s responsibility.”

Scott said the federal government has ignored proper maintenance and repair to this structure for more than a decade and “has put our state in this vulnerable position.”

Scott declared a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties, where algae blooms have been detected in local waterways, on June 29. One day later, Scott expanded the executive order to include Lee and Palm Beach counties.

The executive order allows state and local government to take action to mitigate the spread algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

On Wednesday, Scott announced he plans to include additional funding in his 2017-18 budget to help clean up the Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee River. The proposal, the governor’s office said, would include new funding for a 50-50 matching grant program with local communities near the areas affected by the algae blooms.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio also on Wednesday called on Senate leaders to bring the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 up for a vote. Among other things, the bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the Central Everglades Planning Project, which is designed to move water south.