The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017. Most Senate Democrats and independents said Aug. 1, that upcoming legislation to rewrite the tax code should make sure the middle class doesn’t pay more. They won’t support any upcoming GOP effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code that delivers tax cuts to “the top 1 percent” or adds to the government’s $20 trillion debt. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Elected officials talk algae in nation’s capitol

Sanibel leaders have been shuffling through the halls of Congress all day to make sure Southwest Florida waters —thousands of miles away—are a major focus of our federal lawmakers.

Sanibel mayor Kevin Ruane has held face-to-face meetings, and he brought reinforcements from home: photos of the thick green algae choking the waterways.

Congressional leaders are all pleased with the work to speed up repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike, and plans for a reservoir for storage.

“It’s so important that when we talk about these projects they involve not just things south of the lake but north of it. As population grows north, as development happens, as agriculture continues to happen north of the lake, those nutrients find their way into the groundwater and into the lake,” said Sen. Marco Rubio. “So having places to hold water and clean it north of the lake would mean cleaner water into the lake and ultimately cleaner water out of it.”

Rubio said the Senate will pass a water bill to fund the reservoir before Labor Day, and Sen. Bill Nelson agrees, but said regulation is needed.

“You’ve got to stop the nutrients. Where are the nutrients coming from? A lot of it is from drainoff from lands that are developed because the state of Florida has passed a law that says they don’t do periodic inspections of septic tanks that are leaking,” Nelson said. “Where does all of that go? It ultimately goes into rivers on east and west coast.”

Rep. Francis Rooney showed a map he uses to illustrate the Everglades Restoration Projects, and said he’ll continue to carry it with him and press forward.

“We need to continue to get all groups to stay in one message as the mayor has pointed out from day one and we need to start pushing for 2020 appropriations now just like we started focusing 2019 two years ago,” Rooney said.

A task force will meet with stakeholders Wednesday on the local, state and federal levels all coming together.

That’s where a lot of work will be done to line up funding, and get the engineering and scientific knowledge needed to keep the water clean and clear.

Reporter:Amanda Hall
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