Senators Negron and Benacquisto Support Proposed Funding to Reduce Releases Into St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers
Stuart — Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and of theSenate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin (IRLLOB) and Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers), Senate Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today commented on a budget amendment proposed by Governor Scott through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reduce releases from Lake Okeechobee through a number of water redirection and storage projects.
“During our Select Committee meeting last week, we heard from local elected officials, scientific experts and numerous constituents who offered innovative water storage solutions to help reduce and redirect the current releases from Lake Okeechobee,” said Chair Negron. “I appreciate the Governor’s leadership in placing this budget amendment on consultation for our Legislative Budget Commission to review. We must act now to store and redirect water before it comes in to our communities.”
The Florida Senate received notification from the Governor’s Office that the DEP today submitted a request for increased budget authority for projects affecting water management in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. The DEP requested increased budget authority of $2,769,525.00 from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund for the Grants and Aids to Water Management Districts Wetlands Protection special category.
“This budget amendment contains the types of short-term water storage options Senator Negron and our Select Committee committed to exploring during last week’s meeting,” said Leader Benacquisto, who serves as a member of the Senate Select Committee on IRLLOB. “I’m hopeful the funding will be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission and take us one step closer to a permanent solution.”
If approved by the Legislative Budget Commission the funding will be used to help reduce the flow of water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Projects include operational and structural changes to existing system infrastructure that will help mitigate the estuary flows and high stages in the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) by moving excess water south to Everglades National Park. This will allow maximization of critical pump stations to move excess water from the WCAs, thereby reducing their stages, so additional Lake Okeechobee flows can be sent south. Other short term projects include storing water on public lands in the St. Lucie, Okeechobee, and Caloosahatchee Basins.
Today’s notification begins the Legislature’s legally required fourteen day evaluation period. The next step is approval by the Legislative Budget Commission, which is authorized to approve budget amendments submitted by the executive branch during the time period between legislative sessions.
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CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229