With widespread algae blooms causing beaches to be closed in Martin County, Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties on Wednesday.
The order allows the Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to sidestep state law in order to take actions needed to reduce the spread of the blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, located on the east and west side of Lake Okeechobee.
Scott's order also allows the South Florida Water Management District to reduce the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee through additional water storage projects and calls on the federal government to approve permits for the state's dispersed water management programs.
In a press release accompanying his emergency order on Wednesday, Scott blamed President Obama for the water conditions.
“Florida's waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait," Scott said.
Scott's directives also create a hotline to report algae blooms and call for state officials to deploy additional staff to survey and sample impacted areas. On Tuesday, Martin County Commissioners declared a state of emergency in response to "toxic green algae" after elevated levels of toxins were found June 20 at sampling sites along the St. Lucie River.
The county's health department issued an advisory that encouraged people to avoid discolored water or visible blooms. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is expected to visit to the area on Thursday, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is planning to tour the region on Friday.