Update on SB 10- Now or Neverglades Water Storage Bill

Elizabeth Jolin- Florida Bay Forever
Senate Bill 10 passed in the full Senate on April 12th! This is great news! But now means that the House has to resurrect bill 761 which is the House companion bill.
Our group was in Tallahassee for Sportfishing Day and had the opportunity to meet with Holly Raschein.  Her role as head of the Public Lands and Natural Resources committee means very little at this point since we are so late in the legislative session. HB 761 will be resurrected by House leadership.
At the point where it gets to the House floor – we will all need to call Holly’s office (she said she was concerned that funding for the reservoir project would take money away from the Stewardship Act that is her pet project – we said we didn’t care about that) but at this point I think it would make most sense to weigh in with the Speaker Richard Corcoran’s office to say we would like to see this bill come back to life and the issue to be taken up in the House NOW. His number is (850) 717-5000  
You can say, “Senate Bill 10 just passed in the Senate and I would like to urge Speaker Corcoran to resurrect HB 761 so we can get fresh water to the Florida Bay.”
Find the attached document that outlines (in a mere 31 pages) the changes that were made to Senate Bill 10 prior to it being heard and passed in committee yesterday. 
This amendment makes changes to the location of the reservoir. Whereas originally, the reservoir was identified as needing 60,000 acres and would have been placed south of Lake Okeechobee on US Sugar land or the property of other willing sellers. 
Briefly, here are the main points of the new amendment: 
  • The reservoir will now be constructed on 14,000 state-owned acres in Palm Beach. A shallow reservoir that is already planned will be retrofitted to a 14foot deep reservoir that would hold 240,000 acre feet of water. 
  • The district could also consider using  adjacent reservoirs known as A-1 and A-2 to increase storage (though scientists say this is not an option as it won’t allow enough room for cleaning the water before it gets to the Everglades)
  • It terminates a program in western Palm Beach county that employs inmate labor which would allow for state land swaps with private owners which would allow for the possibility of more land available. 
  • The program cost reduces significantly so from 2.4 billion to 1.5 billion. In theory this would eliminate the need for bonding (which the House had an issue with).
  • The bill incorporates language that provides for retraining and hiring priority for potentially lost farming jobs.
  • It also provides for an airport in Hendry County and a port in Palm Beach County. 
Ultimately, Negron has proven himself to be a master politician. He still gets his water storage south of the Lake, and he also manages to give a free pass to US Sugar in that they no longer have to “give up” 60,000 acres. The changes should take the fight out of the opposition.
Interestingly, a contingent of the “Buy the Land” crowd has shown disappointment in Negron, suggesting he has ‘sold out’ to Big Sugar.  I might suggest that Negron  realized that his bill was not going to pass and figured out a way to reach his end goal which was to “send the water south.”

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