White House: President ‘committed’ to Everglades restoration

WASHINGTON – Oct. 1, 2013 – The White House highlighted its continued support for working with Florida to restore the Everglades, after Gov. Rick Scott requested that President Barack Obama personally inspect damage caused by increased water releases from Lake Okeechobee.

“The president remains committed to the administration’s partnership with the state of Florida in our shared goal of restoring the Florida Everglades,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said in an email last week. “The administration has identified the Everglades as one of five high-priority, nationally significant ecosystems, and views rehabilitating the Herbert Hoover Dike as a priority.”

The Herbert Hoover Dike at the south end of Lake Okeechobee is delicate. Made of dirt, it currently can’t take excess water, and the Army Corp of Engineers has released water into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Canal to keep pressure low. The dike also acts as a dam. Strengthening it and allowing more water flow will enable engineers to send more water south rather than pumping it into the river and canal, where some waterfront homeowners and tourist industries have been harmed by excess fresh water flow.

Rosholm also noted that four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects are also expected to reduce the lake discharges, but they await congressional approval.

Last week, Scott wrote to Obama and asked him to tour Lake Okeechobee in an attempt to draw attention to complaints about how water releases have impacted the health of estuaries on both sides of the state.

U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., and Trey Radel, R-Fla., will hold a panel briefing Oct. 3 in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington about the impact of the discharges. Among the scheduled panelists are state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard.

Source: News Service of Florida