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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House advances bill to give $200 million carve for Everglades repairs



SW Big Birding Day AdventurAfter Florida lawmakers drew two lawsuits and bad publicity last year for diverting Amendment 1 money to salaries and expenses instead of devoting it exclusively to land and water conservation, a House committee approved a measure Thursday that not only attempts to repair their record but aims to repair decades of damage to the Everglades.

The Legacy Florida Act, proposed by incoming Senate President Joe Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell requires the state to set aside 25 percent of Amendment 1 funds — up to $200 million a year — to fund Everglades restoration projects over the next 20 years.

The carve out, HB 989, was approved unanimously by the House Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday, and is expected to win easy passage in the Senate and be included in the Legislature’s final budget.

It will supply a stable funding source to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program, a 30-year partnership with the federal government to spend $13.5 billion on restoration projects to clean up the ecosystem that is central to the state’s water supply.

Although the CERP program was established in 2000, both state and federal governments have struggled to provide the funds necessary to finance the planning and construction needed for the elaborate restoration projects.

Harrell, R-Stuart, said by dedicating the money each year to the restoration efforts, legislators can avoid “the food fight every year” as they scramble for the money. Story here.

Photo: A double crested cormorant suns itself along the Anhinga Trail during the Big Day Birding Adventure, a ‘citizen science’ activity to count birds within the varied habitats of Everglades National Park on Jan. 10, 2016. PATRICK FARRELL

[Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2016 8:37am]


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