Thanks for state leadership, including MaryLynn Magar, on protecting waterways

Posted on Jul 17, 2014 in Media

The 2014 Florida legislative session was a historic session for our waterways. The Martin County Board of County Commissioners wishes to thank Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chaired the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, and our legislative delegation — including Sen. Denise Grimsley, Rep. MaryLynn Magar and Rep. Gayle Harrell for their tremendous leadership and dedication addressing issues of the utmost importance to the citizens of Martin County in the 2014 budget. With much appreciation, we recognize and duly note that nothing requested by Martin County was vetoed.

We are pleased with the progress that has been made in less than 12 months. Last year at this time, we again lost our beloved St. Lucie River to damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and our local basins. Fully 112,000 gallons per minute of polluted lake runoff water were entering our estuary. A plume of murky water was visible outside the St. Lucie Inlet, extending south to Jupiter Island. Unprecedented levels of bacteria in our local waters resulted in posted areas indicating that any contact with our local waters was dangerous. Low salinity levels from the freshwater releases killed oysters and sea grasses. For months, these harmful releases wreaked havoc on our lagoon and estuary, one of the most diverse in North America.

We are just in the start of the rainy season, but we can say we are in a much better position this year. Lake Okeechobee is currently at 12.3 feet, and we have not received significant rainfall. But we all know conditions change quickly as we move through the rainy season.

We thank Gov. Scott and our legislative delegation for recognizing the critical need for solutions to the crisis in our waterways and for showing strong leadership in funding projects that will help improve the environmental and economic health of the St. Lucie estuary and river, and the Indian River Lagoon. In particular, we appreciate support for the C-44 project, which is part of the Indian River Lagoon-South (IRL) Restoration Project, a key component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and a top priority of Martin County.

We appreciate the state of Florida’s commitment to our environment and community and look forward to our continued partnership.

SARAH HEARD, STUART

Editor’s note: Sarah Heard is chairwoman of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.