U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, was in Fort Myers on Monday discussing solutions for the Lake Okeechobee water crisis. The lake’s freshwater releases have caused damage to both coasts, including the spread of algal blooms.
Sen. Rubio said there’s momentum in Congress to get central Everglades projects approved.
These storage and treatment plans are included in the Senate’s annual water bill.
Rubio said he wants to focus on completing these projects and the master everglades restoration plan before considering other possibilities.
One possibility would be acquiring land south of Lake Okeechobee that is owned by U.S. Sugar and others.
Environmentalists say that land is key to relieving east/west discharges. Rubio’s fellow Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, has suggested acquiring those lands through government seizure.
Rubio said getting funds to pay off U.S. Sugar for the land might be a legislative distraction.
“I don’t want somebody from Arkansas or Louisiana or Mississippi to come to me and say, 'Well, we want to help you with your algae problem but now we’re confused because you’re saying you need to do the central Everglades plan or is it the land purchase? Until you guys figure out which is the priority, we’re just not going to give you the money.' That’s what I don’t want to see happen,” he said.
Rubio said the Senate plans to vote on the water bill in September.