To the editor:
When Congressman Francis Rooney visited Sanibel on Feb. 9, he was lauded by local officials for his "total commitment" to clean water. That issue has long been the top priority for Sanibelians, regardless of party affiliation. Now Rooney has shifted his top priority from repealing Obamacare (in his guest commentary on Feb. 1 in this paper) to clean water. We'll take him at his word.
Rae Ann Wessel of SCCF, has authored an informative column likening Florida's reaction to our algae crisis to the massive denial in Flint, MI. There was incredible governmental failure in Flint on all levels, and a similar pattern has developed here in Florida. Our public health is at risk by outbreaks of blue-green algae in the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee. The algae, harmful to humans and animals (not to mention tourism and real estate values) results from excess discharges of polluted water from Lake O into the estuaries.
In 2016, Gov. Scott was forced to declare a state of emergency for 242 days (2/3 of the year) due to toxic discharges from Lake O, but the discharges continued. Although we expected strong action from Congressman Rooney's close friend, Gov. Scott, we got nothing. Scott, blamed everyone but himself and his agencies, and avoided any mention of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir, a plan that can help resolve our problem. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promises to begin immediately on the EAA, but needs the South Florida Water Management. District (SFWMD) to agree. This state agency, appointed by Rooney's close friend, Gov. Scott, has declined to approve the project. They also disparage recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, unsurprising since Gov. Scott is a climate change denier.
If Congressman Rooney is truly committed to clean water, he can publicly thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their support of the EAA Reservoir, so there is storage south of Lake O. He can educate his close friend, Gov. Scott, about the importance of clean water to our state; encourage him to support H.B. 10; and encourage Scott to instruct the SFWMD to start doing their job of controlling pollution at its source, and to approve the EAA Reservoir. With all that, plus Rooney's public support of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), our clean water may have a chance.
Our island used to be known for its beautiful blue-green waters. I hope Francis Rooney is serious about his commitment to clean water, so we don't have a return of blue-green algae and waters that are murky at best.