Should Florida or Army Corps decide when to discharge Lake Okeechobee water to Indian River Lagoon? | Interactive

Tyler Treadway, (@TCPalmtreadway)

It’s not a simple question of federal vs. state authority. But when it comes to issues involving Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River estuary and Indian River Lagoon, nothing is ever simple.

During his June 20 visit to Stuart, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., promised to finish a bill he said he started drafting last year to give the state, not the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the authority to decide if and when to discharge lake water into the estuary. State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has been calling for the state to take the decision-making process from the corps since last summer.

The discharges can wreak environmental havoc on the estuary. Last summer, for example, 136.1 billion gallons of lake water wiped out oyster and sea grass beds. Toxic algae blooms spurred by nitrogen and phosphorus in the water made the estuary dangerous for people to touch — as if anyone would want to touch the chocolate-brown stuff.

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