Legislation would create southern storage to reduce harmful
discharges from Lake Okeechobee and further other critical
water resource protection and development programs
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on The Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), today passed Senate Bill 10, Water Resources, by Senator Bradley. The bill addresses the critical need for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, a priority of Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), and was expanded today to include a Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resource Program to provide funding tools to implement water resource protection and development programs across Florida.
Statement by President Negron:
“Harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee have flooded communities on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers with massive amounts of toxic algae that destroyed estuaries and harmed the local and state economies. Unfortunately, incidences like these are not unique in our state and are a symptom of the lack of attention to water resource development. The lost summer must be a wakeup call for all Floridians.
“After listening to citizens from around the state, we are expanding this critical legislation to address an immediate response to the Lake Okeechobee crisis, along with other pressing water issues facing our state as a whole. In 2016, we made an impressive start by passing Legacy Florida and a comprehensive water bill. Through Senate Bill 10 we are backing up those commitments with funding investments to improve water resources throughout our state.
“The voters spoke about the urgency of this issue when they approved the Water and Land Conservation Initiative in 2014 by overwhelming margins. Senate Bill 10 ensures fidelity to the Constitution by utilizing resources set aside by that amendment to make the financial investments we need to meet the water infrastructure needs of families, businesses, agriculture and the environment.
Statement by Senator Bradley:
“As we developed this legislation, we have heard from thousands of Floridians, and they have been clear that we must have clean water for our families and businesses, sufficient water for our agriculture industry, and we must preserve our unique rivers, springs and natural systems for the enjoyment of future generations. We cannot fail in this effort.
“In addition to the environmental disaster around Lake Okeechobee, we recently experienced the massive sewage discharge in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, each session Senate policy and budget committees review issues relating to water quality and quantity concerns with the St. John’s River, the Florida Keys, and a vast majority of our springs and rivers.
“For over a generation, Florida has focused on land acquisition for conservation with historic programs like Florida Forever and P2000. Senate Bill 10 recognizes that with approximately 30 percent of all land in the Florida already managed for conservation purposes, it is clearly time to meet the directive Florida voters gave the Legislature through the Water and Land Conservation Amendment by focusing land acquisition and conservation priorities on specific improvements related to water resources.
“These critical investments in water infrastructure will create jobs across our state and save a valuable resource to serve our state’s growing demand.”
The Coast-to-Coast Comprehensive Water Resource Program includes the following:
- Acceleration of the timing and funding for the state share of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project. The bill authorizes the purchase of land for the project from willing sellers in the EAA and does not authorize the use of eminent domain.
- Funding of the state share of all existing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects in the integrated delivery schedule (IDS), including the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project, the C-44 Reservoir Project, the Western Everglades Restoration Project, the C-111 South-Dade Project, and the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.
- Direction to the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the reevaluation of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to take into account repairs to the dike and new southern storage features to increase storage in the lake as early as possible.
- A new bonding program, building on the Florida Forever model that recognizes the need to bond for water resource protection and development across Florida. The bill transfers the remaining $3.3 billion of existing bonding authority from Florida Forever to the Florida Coast-to Coast Water Resources Initiative. The bill does not create additional bonding capacity.
- A new revolving loan financing program and statutory tools to allow the state, water management districts and local governments, to develop and operate water storage and supply facilities to service regional populations addressing the growing need for water supply in the state.
- Dedicated LATF funding to expand Legacy Florida to include projects addressing water quality and restoration with the St. John’s River and the Florida Keys.
- Funding to aggressively address the retrofitting or conversion to central sewer systems of outdated septic systems consistent with Governor Scott’s leadership on this issue.
- Provisions that encourage reuse by establishing a water reuse grant programs, specifically to assist wastewater treatment facilities to expand capacity to make reclaimed water available for reuse.