News Feature | February 11, 2014

Candidates Clash Over Nutrients

By Sara Jerome

lakeOreg

Nutrient rich water has become a defining topic in the Florida gubernatorial race. 

Water with a high nutrient content was deliberately funneled out of Florida's Lake Okeechobee last summer, resulting in pollution in nearby rivers. The question of who's to blame is now at the center of a high-profile game of finger pointing.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist blamed current Gov. Rick Scott for the discharges in remarks last week, according to the Florida Current. Crist, a Democrat, is running for governor in the 2014 election. So is Scott, a Republican. 

In pointed remarks, Crist "all but accused Scott of masterminding the pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers this summer after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharged nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee into those water bodies," according to the Herald-Tribune.  

The discharges were an attempt to decrease the water level of the lake, relieving "pressure on an aging dike system threatened by record rainfall," the report said.  

The South Florida Water District explains that the lake health has been "threatened in recent decades by excessive nutrients from agricultural and urban activities in the lake's watershed, by harmful high and low water levels and by the spread of exotic vegetation."

Here's what Scott took issue with, per the Miami Herald: "Crist said he interrupted his 2008 honeymoon to persuade his appointees to the South Florida Water Management District to stop discharges of pollutants from Lake Okeechobee. He accused the Scott administration of reversing that decision, and blamed Scott for a return of pollution to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers on Florida’s Treasure Coast and Gulf Coast."

Crist explained the importance of the incident in a sit-down with News 4 Jax. He "grew so animated about the Lake Okeechobee issue during the interview that he sketched a map of the river system on the back of a napkin."

Scott, on the other hand, holds the position that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are at fault, the report said. 

Scott has proposed to spend "$130 million more next year to improve the South Florida ecosystem and speed up restoration of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades," according to Gannett's News-Press

Interest in water policy and politics? Check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Sunset over Lake Okeechobee," © 2011 Mo Kaiwen 莫楷文, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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