Senate Bill 10 may be amended before full Senate vote

OKEECHOBEE — The Florida Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee passed Florida Senate Bill 10 on Feb. 7, but not without some committee members voicing reservations and suggesting proposals for amendments as the bill moves forward for discussion by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Linda Stuart noted the plan to spend $2.4 billion to buy 60,000 acres and build a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) in order to reduce harmful freshener releases east and west depends on federal government funding.

“If we don’t get the federal funding, what will occur?” she asked. Other Everglades projects that have already been approved are still waiting for federal funding.

She also said there should be something  in the legislation to help those whose livelihoods would be destroyed by taking the agriculture land out of production.

“The immediate solution has been staring us in the face,” said Senator David Simmons. “Go ahead and fix the Herbert Hoover Dike.

“I think the southern storage can be accomplished with the 30,000 acres that exist in A-1 and A-2 conservation areas,” he added.

“There needs to be an immediate solution to this, a solution that deals with a crisis. That is to go ahead and expedite the construction so that it can be the source of storage, not in the long term, but in the short term to eliminate the discharges.”

Senator Simmons said the State of Florida owns enough land already to solve the problems.

He said even if they do obtain federal funding it will be 15-20 years before a southern reservoir is completed. That won’t solve the immediate issues in the coastal estuaries, he said.

“I think it’s time for us to take control of our own future,” he said.

“We can stop the discharges that are unnecessary. The plans are already in place to get that done.”

He suggested adding an amendment to SB10 that requires SFWMD to expedite the rehabilitation of the dike so that it can temporarily hold water levels up to 19.5 feet.

“Those discharges can be reduced and ultimately stopped, not 20 years from now, but in fact within three years,” he said.

“I’m a liberal Democrat from Broward,” said Senator Gary Farmer. “We have waited too long to try to tackle this problem. It seems we are all fighting and it has become really polarized fighting about everything south of the lake. Nobody is talking about what goes into the lake.

“As a liberal Democrat I don’t often find myself agreeing with our governor. He has proposed we do something north of the lake. I agree with the governor we need to look at the water going into the lake,” he said.

“We don’t have an unlimited pot of money so we have to be really careful with the money we have,” he said.

“This is not a silver bullet,” said Senator Rob Bradley, who sponsored the bill.

“We have northern storage issues. We have septic tank issues.”

He said those who have a better plan should put it forward.

The subcommittee voted 6-0 on Feb. 7 to move the bill forward.

On Feb. 10, Representative Thad Altman filed a bill identical to SR 10 in the Florida House of Representatives.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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