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Rooney visits Matlacha, addresses key issues

June 20, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

About 30 Pine Island and Matlacha residents turned out Monday when U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney visited Matlacha to discuss such issues as water releases from Lake Okeechobee and immigration.

The Matlacha Chamber of Commerce and Leoma Lovegrove had invited Rooney to the island and he addressed the group and answered questions at Love-grove's Matlacha art gallery.

Every year the Army Corp of Engineers releases billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee southward and this year it is releasing about 2.6 billion gallons of water daily into the Caloosahatchee. The end result is, the waters off Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel turn from green to brown due to the nutrients in the fresh water releases.

"We all share our concern about the water," Rooney said. "The water drives our economy and drives tourism. We're in the fight for our lives to get more appropriations for the Everglades Restoration project as quickly as we can - especially the A-2 reservoir and the repairs made to the Herbert Hoover Dike."

"The issues the Army Corp of Engineers face is, they have studies that indicate the dike could fail at 15 feet of water," Rooney said. "The difference between 15 feet and 18 feet off water is something like 3 million acre feet of water."

According to Rooney, Congress is working to repair the dike sooner than anticipated.

"Last year Florida received 30 percent more dollars for the dike repairs and this year Florida will receive double that amount," Rooney said. "That will cut four years off the completion date for repairs to the dike. With the additional funding Gov. (Rick) Scott got for dike repairs, the dike should be completed by 2022 2023."

Rooney offered several solutions to the overall water issues.

"One solution to the water issues is more money for these buildout projects," Rooney said. "This is a federal issue. We have a federal law, The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, that said the federal government and the state of Florida will split the cost 50/50 of building some 68 projects north of the lake, south, east and west of the lake."

During Rooney's vista, the issue of illegal immigration was raised and the separation of children from their parents.

Rooney stated he us emphatically against separating children from their parents.

"We have to remember, more than half of our illegal immigrants came to the U.S. on a visa and today we don't know where those people are," Rooney said. "If you or I get a visa to enter France, you can bet they'll know where we are."

When asked about asylum for immigrants, Rooney said, "I've introduced a bill that you can't claim asylum if you're in the United States. This is a huge loophole that gives them (immigrants) 8 months to claim asylum. I'm not for separating families but I'm not for abusing the laws for asylum either."

According to Rooney's website, "Securing our borders is a top national security priority. As a member of the Congressional Border Security Caucus, I will fight to protect our citizens against the harms of illegal immigration. We need to enforce current immigration laws to end the incentive for illegal immigration, and funding for sanctuary cities should be cut."

"I want to thank Congressman Rooney for coming to Matlacha today," Lovegrove said. "Congressman Rooney knows how precious our islands are to all of us and as our congressman is devoted to making a positive impact for our future environments and island life. He's got our backs."



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