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Fort Myers Beach declares local state of emergency
August 8, 2018

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During Tuesday's meeting, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council voted to put the town on a local state of emergency.

The action will help open up funding streams for issues related to red drift algae, red tide and cyanobacteria.

"It helps businesses, individuals, and the town to pay for the cleanup," Mayor Tracey Gore said. "For business lost revenue, individuals who lost work, it helps them."

Gore spent Tuesday morning attending the Lee County Board of County Commissioners meeting with a slough of other area mayors, who asked the county commissioners to expand the county state of emergency to include fish kills and red drift algae, as well.

Gore has been working with the other mayors to draft a letter to the state asking for the same expansion on the state level, as well as to ask the state to hold more water north of Lake Okeechobee and send more water south of the lake rather than releasing it to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

"This is a bigger problem then what our little towns can do. We're trying to fix the symptoms," she said. "The mayors are working diligently, collaboratively. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to work with."

After approving the local state of emergency, the council members began discussing the water quality crisis as a whole.

Gore asked what the town could do in the immediate term to help, but Bruce Butcher said the state should immediately end the back flow of untreated water in canals back into the lake. Vice Mayor Joanne Shamp agreed.

"if you had a steel factory beside a lake, and they were pouring their toxic stuff into a lake, you'd shut the factory down. We have never allowed industry in recent times with the EPA to do this," Shamp said. "Why are we allowing any industry to back flow pollutants in any body of water? Stop it. Just stop it."

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said he hoped the letters and communication from local municipalities on the state and national levels will not "fall on deaf ears, now that they've seen what havoc it creates. Not just the optical of the dead fish, but the pollution of our waters."

Butcher had another idea.

"The best short term we can have is at the ballot box in August and November," he said.

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