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In the back-and-forth about who’s most responsible for toxic algae discharges coming from Lake Okeechobee, Rick Scott has dusted off an old Bill Nelson campaign commercial and claims Nelson did “nothing” despite making a promise to clean up pollution 28 years ago.

It’s a claim hard to dispute given that Governor Scott uses Senator Nelson’s own words against him and nearly three decades later, the pollution still exists.

In 1990, as a candidate for governor, Bill Nelson looked into a camera and pledged “to stop the poisoning of lakes and streams across this state. Lake Okeechobee is dying because of the massive dumping of pollutants.”

The process to clean up toxic algae in Lake O has been slow thanks to foot dragging by both the state and federal government. Significant progress has been made in the past year, partially out of both environmental and political concerns.

Scott touts his recent accomplishments in resolving the Okeechobee’s dangerous discharges. He points to the state funding of a reservoir to hold water south of the Lake which the federal government has yet to fund its share of the project; pushing for $100 million in state funding to start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike; receiving a commitment from the White House to speed up repairs; and helping to secure funding through the Army Corps of Engineers with a plan to complete this project by the Governor’s goal of 2022.

Nelson, on the other hand, produced his own digital ad in early August placing the algae issue directly at Scott’s feet, which seems to conflict with Nelson’s 1990 admission that the problem existed long before Rick Scott was elected governor or before he even lived in Florida.

“Rick Scott caused this green-algae mess by shamelessly gutting environmental regulation in Florida and drastically cutting funds for the water management districts. It didn’t help that he appointed his cronies to various regulatory boards,” said Nelson campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin. “On the other hand, Sen. Nelson grew up in this state and has always fought for a clean environment because he knows how important it is to our tourism-driven economy.”
So why the finger-pointing? The political risks are high. A new survey by the Republican-leaning polling firm Rasmussen shows Nelson with a one-point lead over Scott — 45%-44%.
Voters impacted by the algae are looking for someone to blam. The political pressure may be what finally gets this decades-old environmental problem solved.
David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.