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Sanibel Mayor to address Senate Select Committee

By Staff | Aug 20, 2013

Plume of freshwater darkens the water at Redfish Pass extending into the Gulf of Mexico on July 10.

After conducting a hastily called special meeting of the Sanibel City Council on Wednesday to discuss the city’s efforts regarding this summer’s continuous damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane will provide testimony Thursday on the issue before the Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin in Stuart.

The committee is comprised of eight members chosen by Senate President Don Gaetz, including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Southwest Florida.

Mayor Ruane will testify regarding the significant, detrimental and economic impacts of the high flow regulatory discharges on Sanibel Island and the coastal waters of Lee County; the urgent need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to consider all short- and long-term storage options; the necessity of securing federal funding for the C-43 West Basin Reservoir Project and other long-term solutions; and the importance of immediate ecological monitoring to determine the full impacts on the Caloosahatchee estuary.

“Our city’s top priority must be to move the state and federal governments into fully implementing the long-term solutions to the Lake Okeechobee releases,” said Ruane. “If the past years of rhetoric and debate do not quickly move these capital projects into implementation, we will have squandered our economy and the jobs and property values of every person in Southwest Florida.”

Additionally, Ruane will address the tremendous economic impact of the releases on the area’s businesses, residents and tourist destinations.

The workshop runs from 1 to 9 p.m. and “will explore short-term solutions or alternatives to reduce or eliminate current releases from Lake Okeechobee,” according to the agenda.

This is the first of an expected four hearings as the committee works toward a Nov. 4 deadline to submit a report of its findings to President Gaetz.