Reservoir for the Everglades: 78 billion gallons of cleaner water

LakeOkeechobee(2)

In her article, “Compromise yields gift for the Everglades: 78 billion gallons of cleaner water,” Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) writes about an agreement to use lands south of Lake Okeechobee to create a storage reservoir for storing clean water. Apparently, similar plans were resisted by the sugar industry since 1996, because sugar barons objected to taking active farmland out of production. See excerpts here and full article via the Miami Herald. [Many thanks to Teo Freytes for bringing this item to our attention.]

Months of negotiation and compromise over whether to build a deep-water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee ended in victory Tuesday for Senate President Joe Negron as the Florida House agreed to the Senate plan and sent the measure to the governor for his approval.

The proposal, SB 10, will cost the state and federal government $1.5 billion and will accelerate the state’s 20-year goal of storing water from the lake by using land the state owns, known as the A-2 parcel, as well as land swaps and purchases. [. . .] The plan will create at least 240,000 acre feet of storage — about 78 billion gallons — south of the lake by converting 14,000 acres of state land now used as a shallow reservoir to build a deep-water reservoir. The measure will set in motion negotiations for the state to purchase land for the project from willing sellers, while prohibiting the use of eminent domain to force the sale.

Beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state will use $34 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire land or negotiate leases in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Another $30 million from the LATF will be used for the C51 reservoir project. In 2018-19, and every year thereafter, $100 million from the LATF will be used for the project. [. . .]

For years, a storage reservoir south of the lake was resisted by the sugar industry, which objected to taking active farmland out of production to be used as a water storage or water cleansing marsh as part of the Everglades’ recovery plan mapped out in 1996.

But Negron, R-Stuart, and his Senate supporters persisted, agreeing to a scaled-back proposal that relies on using publicly owned land for the first phase of the reservoir before asking farmers to sell their land for the project. His original project carried a $2.4 billion price tag and would have required 60,000 acres of active farmland, but he agreed to a $1.5 billion compromise that forces the South Florida Water Management District — which had repeated many of the sugar industry’s talking points in opposition to the measure — to shoulder the responsibility for making sure the project is completed.

Negron was motivated to accelerate the construction of a reservoir to avoid a repeat of the discharges that fouled the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers with toxic algae for months last year.

For full article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article148172589.html

 

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