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Area mayors ask County Commission for support

August 8, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners got a visit from most of Lee County's mayors Tuesday, and they paid attention to their plight.

Not only did the commission agree to extend the local state of emergency regarding the blue-green algae, the board also passed a second one regarding red tide.

They also agreed to pursue the mayors' five-point plan to help the area dig out of this environmental and economic nightmare.

Article Photos

Local mayors who attended the Lee County Commission meeting Tuesday were, from left, Randy Henderson from Fort Myers, Kevin Ruane from Sanibel, Peter Simmons from Bonita Springs, Tracey Gore from Fort Myers Beach and Joe Coviello from Cape Coral.


Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said he was very pleased by how the meeting went.

"It's great to see all levels of government working together, and I believe that is the solution to this problem," Coviello said. "We have municipalities, the county, state and federal government all looking toward fixing the cause while we deal with the symptoms."

The mayors met with the board to speak about the ecological collapse related to red tide along the coast and the blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee, canals and other waterways.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane spoke for the group, saying the events could result in the economic collapse of the area.

The group, which sent a letter to the state, sought to extend the governor's state of emergency through seven Southwest Florida counties, reduce or eliminate the water flows from Lake Okeechobee, get more funding for cleanup, provide compensation for businesses, residents and workers impacted by the algae and, once the water is clean, to promote tourism and the beaches.

"Many tourists are coming and they're seeking reimbursement. It's tough for them and we want to welcome them back. It's a tourist-driven area. Home sales have stopped, hotels have 80 percent vacancy rates," Ruane said.

Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons told the commission that what is happening now is only the beginning.

"Out on the water there is a line of dead fish about a mile long. When the winds shift, we need to be ready to pick them up," Simmons said, who has the support of the mayors from Sarasota, Punta Gorda and Naples.

Commissioner Larry Kiker said with the states of emergency from the state and the hope that the federal government will step in, there is a possibility of more funding than the money the state has sent for the seven counties effected, which only scratches the surface.

"A $3 million grant is a great number, now add a zero to it. This doesn't address the problem. It's more reactionary," Kiker said.

Coviello said once the symptoms are worked on, long-term solutions need to go into effect.

"There are things they can do on a temporary basis. Levels of water in the lake, storing water north of the lake, sending water south and try to keep it from going east to west," Coviello said. "The ramifications have been devastating and we need to get some relief."

Ruane said it will take the work of everyone from the local, state and federal levels to solve the problem.

"It's going to take a village. We need to use every tool in the toolbox. The state has allowed for opportunities for that. We're going to expedite the cleanup," Ruane said.

Commissioner Brian Hamman said he was impressed by the actions of the mayors and the commissioners and aiming the passion they have for the issue toward the federal government which, he said, has let them down.

"We need all levels of government working on this. The state is helping us with grants, but we need the federal government to step in and declare this a disaster," Hamman said. "The Army Corps of Engineers are sending us too much fresh water and we need to engage them. Everything we've been doing is reactionary and we have to look toward long-term solutions, which have been out there for 18 years with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan."



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