Gov. Scott pledges money while criticizing feds
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott is vowing to spend more state money in an effort to clean up pollution discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.
Scott plans to visit the area on Tuesday. He will pledge during his tour to have the state spend an additional $40 million in 2014 as a part of a much larger project to help store water.
At the same time, however, the Republican governor will criticize the Army Corps of Engineers' management of Lake Okeechobee.
He said the corps' decision to discharge water from the lake because of heavy rain this year has resulted in fish kills and toxic water in areas east of the lake.
The corps, which says public safety is its main concern in managing the 730-square mile lake, releases water in an effort to keep the levels in the lake from getting too high.
Local officials say high water levels increase the risk of a breach in the lake's main dike. The corps has reinforced a 21-mile stretch of the Herbert Hoover dike and plans to replace culverts and other structures that have weakened since the dike was built in the 1930s. Rocks and boulders are stockpiled near the lake in the event of a breach.
"The Corps is now managing the lake's water level more to address the stability of an aging dike, rather than protecting the water quality and ecology of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries," Scott states in a letter he will send to a top official with the Corps in Atlanta.
Scott in his letter will call on federal officials to spend $1.6 billion on South Florida environmental projects that are supposed to be split between the federal government and the state. He will also urge them to speed up plans to reinforce the dike.
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