TALLAHASSEE -- – Florida Gov. Rick Scott – who has spent months sniping at President Barack Obama on everything from health care to federal budget cuts – challenged the president to tour parts of the state that are being damaged by water released from Lake Okeechobee.
Scott sent a two-page letter to Obama late Tuesday that invited him and his administration to see how “federal shortcomings” have affected families in the regions near the lake.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the lake to reduce pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover Dike. Parts of the earthen dike date back to the 1930s. After slowly dropping over the last month, lake levels have begun rising again with recent rains, reaching 15.90 feet above sea level. The Corps begins daily inspections of the dike if the water level hits 16.5 feet.
Critics of the dumping say polluted freshwater from the lake has ravaged the ecosystems of the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie estuary.
In his letter Scott chides the Obama administration for not prioritizing federal aid including money to repair the aging dike. He says that the president’s budget recommendations for 2014 call for reducing the amount of money spent on the dike.
“After a tour, you will no doubt make Lake Okeechobee enhancements more of a priority than what is currently reflected in your budget reductions,” Scott wrote.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Earlier this month a state budget panel approved spending nearly $3 million on several projects designed to reduce water coming from the lake into nearby estuaries.
Scott this summer also pledged to push for $40 million in additional state aid to finish the construction on a storm water treatment project by the St. Lucie River that could ease the environmental impact of water being released from nearby waterways. He has also pledged $90 million to match federal funding for new bridges along Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County to help increase water flow to the southern Everglades.
The Republican governor – who has been battling low poll numbers as he heads into his re-election campaign – has routinely criticized the Obama administration this year. Scott has complained about federal budget cuts and its impact on National Guard troops needed in case of hurricanes, the health care overhaul, and a lack of federal funding for Everglades restoration.