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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Negron announces $2.4 billion 'priority' to buy key sugar land for Everglades clean-up



In what environmentalists are calling a significant breakthrough in Everglades restoration efforts, incoming Senate President Joe Negron leapfrogged over agricultural industry opposition and on Tuesday called for a massive $2.4 billion state and federal land-buying program to buy sugar land to store water south of Lake Okeechobee and repair the fragile Everglades ecosystem.

The idea — to store and clean phosphorus-laden water before releasing it into Everglades National Park — has been demanded by environmentalists for the past 16 years, but efforts to buy the land needed for the project have been sidelined in the face of agriculture and sugar-industry opposition. Instead, lawmakers and water management district officials have pursued clean-up projects on the periphery of the Everglades Agricultural Area, not in the heart of the region, which could displace working farmland.

“All the evidence that I see confirms what I'm here to announce today: We must buy land south,”' Negron said to loud applause at a press conference in his hometown, Stuart.

Negron’s announcement comes after a summer of polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries have led to toxic algae blooms along the state’s Treasure Coast and in his hometown.

Negron, a Republican, announced that ending the discharges and finding the funds for the land-buy south of the lake would be his “No. 1 personal priority.” More here. 

Here's Negron's press release:

President-Designate Negron Announces Plans for Major Water Storage Expansion

60,000 acres of land to provide 120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee

Stuart–Florida Senate President-Designate Joe Negron (R-Stuart) today announced plans to pursue funding to add ‎120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

“For too long, our community has been plagued by tremendous environmental and economic impacts as hundreds of millions of gallons of water are released from Lake Okeechobee each year,” said President-Designate Negron. “Permanent storage South of Lake Okeechobee is unquestionably needed as part of the overall plan to solve this catastrophic problem, particularly given the very devastating effects the current toxic algal blooms are causing in both our estuaries and the Everglades.” 

Over the last several months, President-Designate Negron has been meeting with the agricultural community, Florida’s best scientists, community advocates, and others with relevant backgrounds and knowledge, regarding strategies to reduce and eventually eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Through President-Designate Negron’s work with various experts and interested parties, two areas that appear optimal for new water storage have been identified: an area to the south straddling the Miami Canal and the Bolles Canal; and, an area to the southeast adjacent to existing storm water treatment areas, canals, and the A-1 flow equalization basin.  The estimated cost of reservoirs on 60,000 acres of land providing 120 billion gallons of storage in the area South of Lake Okeechobee is roughly $2.4 billion.

“These areas to the south and southeast ‎were identified based on the ability to leverage existing structures to facilitate the continued flow of water to the South,” continued President-Designate Negron.  “With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion.”

President-Designate Negron proposes to use approximately $100 million annually of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by Amendment 1 over the next 20 years to finance the acquisition of the land and construction of these reservoirs, and will pursue this funding during his upcoming term as President of the Florida Senate.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 7:11pm]


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