Studies at odds over financial impact of Senate Bill 10

OKEECHOBEE — Researchers can make numbers say anything they want. It’s all a matter of which factors you choose to consider.

Evidence two studies released recently regarding Florida’s Senate Bill 10.

Negative impact: $695 million

According to a study released Feb. 23 by the James Madison Institute, the annual overall negative economic impact of Senate Bill 10 — not counting the $2.4 billion cost of purchasing the land and constructing the reservoir — totals $695 million.

That’s a loss of $695 million per year, in addition to the $2.4 billion in tax money spent on the project.

JMI partnered with The Washington Economics Group (WEG) to analyze and estimate the overall economic impacts of the proposal.

The JMI/WSE study cited revenues lost, including the county property taxes lost if 60,000 acres of productive farm land is taken off the tax rolls, the economic impact of jobs lost by the agriculture community and related industries, the economic impact of the food production lost.

Most of the EAA is in Palm Beach County, with a small portion in Hendry County.

The actual site of the proposed reservoir has not been determined, but it’s likely Palm Beach County would take the biggest hit on taxes.

Positive impact: $20 billion

On the other side, a study released Feb. 28 by The Everglades Foundation claims that construction of the proposed EAA Reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee will generate more than 39,000 jobs and provide economic benefits of $20 billion.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Foundation, outlined the study live on Facebook Tuesday, touting the expected increase in real estate values in Lee and Martin Counties and in tourism. He also said the EAA construction will create 39,000 jobs for construction workers, engineers and those in construction-related industries.

“The South Reservoir is clearly a project with benefits vastly outweighing costs,” wrote Dr. Michael Maloney, professor emeritus of Clemson University and the principal investigator in the study. “At a construction cost of $2.47 billion, the South Reservoir is a no-brainer … the longer the project is put off, the more it will cost to build.”

Those who live south of the lake question The Foundation’s study.

“Eikenberg has claimed that countless billions have been lost in real estate and tourism, even though Florida’s real estate market continues to rally and according a recent report from VisitFlorida, the state set another tourism record in 2016, welcoming 112.8 million visitors, which is an increase of 5.9 percent over 2015,” stated Hillary Hyslope of the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce.

“The argument Eikenberg has been making about the jobs that would be created by the EAA reservoir project is equal parts ridiculous and offensive.

Anyone from the Glades communities will tell you that while temporary construction jobs from Everglades restoration projects are certainly welcomed, they rarely hire residents of the Glades, instead bringing in construction workers from other areas and other states,” she added.

“It’s only fitting that a group funded almost entirely by out-of-state billionaire special interests has hired an out-of-state economist to come to the same discredited conclusion being pushed by the Everglades Foundation and its dishonest affiliates. This study relies on ‘fake science’ and ‘fake economics’ to make a case that neither real scientists nor economists actually believe,” stated Ardis Hammock, owner and operator of Frierson Farms Inc. in Moore Haven.

“This in no way minimizes the very real harm experienced by the coastal estuaries, but for anyone to claim a small reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee would have any real impact on those issues is blatantly dishonest.

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Everglades Foundation would go to these lengths to push misinformation to sell this economically disastrous plan. The facts speak for themselves: Senate Bill 10 is a job killer that spends too much, relies on fraudulent science, and gets very little in return.”

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