Rep. Patrick Murphy Talks About Nasty Lake Okeechobee Pollution
Nelson and Rubio?
Nelson, [I think so]. It sounds like [Nancy} Pelosi will come by. I haven't heard from Rubio.
What about the piece of Everglades Restoration that involves buying sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee? Isn't there an October 12 deadline to purchase that?
There was a deal made under Charlie Crist -- he made a deal with agriculture to buy a large portion of the land and theoretically send water south where it used to go. That deal has certain triggers, and the understanding was that state might not have money right away. There will be another chance where the land can be bought for X amount of money. So if that day comes and goes, there will be another deadline -- of course, the price goes up. It's really a state deadline.
Where is Rick Scott in all this?
I've reached out to him about this. He came and visited and saw devastation. He's sending Herschel Vineyard [the head of the Department of Environmental Protection to my summit]. He'll be presenting. I'm not sure exactly what he's going to stay. I'm encouraged. There are some matching agreements between the state and federal government -- some cases where the state has spent on restoration but the feds haven't and vice versa.
Rick Scott has gutted DEP.
I've read some of the articles about it. The state has lessened funding for environmental agencies... That ball's in his court -- I don't want to criticize him. He's stepping up now -- at least, that's what I hope.
Are you hoping that a state of emergency is declared for Florida?
The state has to declare -- the governor has to declare it. Then he asks the president.
Have you talked to the Fanjuls or sugar growers?
We have a scientist from some of these areas coming who works with all agriculture -- he will be presenting. My whole message here is that everyone has to be at the table. I don't want to vilify sugar or the Army Corps. These problems have been decades in the making... If we single someone out, it's [not productive.]
What's the most shocking thing you've seen personally of the pollution?
Oysters can filter 50 gallons of water a day -- each oyster -- so I went out with Chris Zudovsky, a commissioner in St Lucie, to lay oyster beds. He gets these little tiny cuts. By the time we get to the dock, he says "Holy cow, I got an infection!" He's got these huge lesions and had to go to the hospital for emergency antibiotics for the polluted water.
And businesses are suffering near you?
Yeah, for every dollar spent on the environment, it comes back three to two dollars. But now, charter fishermen, paddleboard rentals, diving --- all that's slowed down. Expensive real estate values are down. Hotels along the river are struggling.