Editorial: The real algae bloom crisis

The governor declared a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties after a massive algae bloom in the St. Lucie River prompted beach closings on the Atlantic Coast. Greg Lovett/Palm Beach Post via AP
The governor declared a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties after a massive algae bloom in the St. Lucie River prompted beach closings on the Atlantic Coast.Greg Lovett/Palm Beach Post via AP
Published June 30 2016
Updated June 30 2016

Gov. Rick Scott took another cheap shot at the White House this week for a crisis he and his party had a big hand in creating. The governor declared a state of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie counties after a massive algae bloom in the St. Lucie River prompted beach closings on the Atlantic Coast. Scott, predictably, blamed President Barack Obama for not investing enough in flood control in southeast Florida. This from a governor who for years fought the federal government over water cleanup efforts and who collects huge sums from big polluters in the Everglades to push his political agenda.

Scott's order Wednesday calls on state agencies to take several steps to redirect and manage the flow of water in and out of Lake Okeechobee. The unseasonably heavy rains this winter forced the Army Corps of Engineers to dump billions of gallons of dirty water down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, causing environmental damage on both coasts as nutrient-rich water from the lake flowed to coastal estuaries.

To stem the spread of the algae, Scott directed the South Florida Water Management District to store additional water north and south of the lake. Algae blooms cause health problems and harm the local ecosystem and water-related businesses. With Scott's order, the state will expand the monitoring for toxins and open a hotline for complaints.

This is all well and fine, but Scott is only reacting to a crisis long in the making. And worse, he is using other people's misery to score political points. Obama is not the culprit. This governor fought the federal government for years over the state's clean-water standards. He decimated the water management districts, cut environmental enforcement, rejected a plan by former Gov. Charlie Crist to buy sugar land for water storage and signed into law a bloated water resources bill that will encourage sprawl. Scott has not called on Congress to eliminate U.S. price supports for sugar, which force taxpayers to both subsidize the industry's dirty practices and then pay for the cleanup of the Everglades. No wonder U.S. Sugar Corp. has become one of the governor's biggest financial supporters with another $100,000 donation to his political committee in June.

If Scott wants to fix the problem, he should work with Congress to stop contributing to it.

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