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Algae Outbreak Prompts State Of Emergency Declaration ... Again

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Martin County Health Department
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Blue-green algae along the shore of Martin County. Blue-green algae blooms on Florida's Treasure Coast last summer had a devastating impact on the region's tourism, fishing and wildlife.

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven counties experiencing blue-green algae blooms, including Palm Beach County.

The blooms are in large part due to water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. They can cause fish die-offs and respiratory irritation in humans. And it's not the first time the foul-smelling blooms have prompted an emergency declaration: in the summer of 2016, at the peak of the July tourist season, the blooms closed beaches and fishing businesses.

Read more: Everglades 101: Just How Does This Thing Work, Anyway?

On a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said now is the time for federal officials to step up Everglades restoration funding -- including a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the need for water discharges.

"If we miss this opportunity, the Army Corps goes back to a planning process which will take three years, which will be more summers of toxic algae, more summers of closed beaches, impacts to tourism, jobs, let alone the threat to human health," he said on a Monday afternoon call with reporters.

The reservoir proposal is currently awaiting approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Officials there are on a tight timeline to get it to the Senate for inclusion in a water bill this summer.