Senate Lake Okeechobee Management Bill Passed | News, Sports, Jobs – SANIBEL-CAPTIVA

A much-criticized Florida Senate bill on managing water resources, including Lake Okeechobee, passed overwhelmingly 37-2 after changes were made to the measure on Feb. 17.

SB 2508 had alarmed some because of how quickly it moved through the Senate over the course of two weeks. Critics, such as the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, worried it would give the state legislature more control over South Florida’s water management district and interfere with a balanced plan. contribution of stakeholders for the management of Lake Okeechobee.

The bill contains language that regulates land acquisitions for water projects and environmental permits that were seen to be intended to protect agricultural interests and other landowners near where conservation projects would be identified in connection with the restoration of the Everglades and a diversion of water resources.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, whose district encompasses most of Lee County, cited a legislative amendment made last week that persuaded him to vote for the bill.

While Rodrigues was unavailable for comment, his aide Tim Morris referenced the provisions of the amendment, including the clarification that the “The release of public funds for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, C-43 West Basin Reservoir Project, and Indian-River Lagoon South Projects are authorized as funded. by the General Credit Law and do not depend on certification requirements described in the draft law.

Morris said the bill makes it clear that the management schedule for Lake Okeechobee will be “safeguard society’s and the environment’s water supply, reducing high-volume discharges into coastal estuaries and providing flood control.”

The amendment also removed the language “which, based on stakeholder feedback, may have appeared to be additional direction for the South Florida Water Management District. With this language removed, the bill makes it clear that the district is only required to certify that it provides recommendations to the federal government that are consistent with current district programs and plans.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida officials declined to comment on the amended bill immediately after it passed. On February 14, before the amendment was added, the organization called the bill “one of the most concerning bills the Conservancy has ever seen in terms of reversing efforts to protect coastal waters,” in a message sent to supporters and the media.

The city of Fort Myers Beach sent letters to heads of state opposing the bill, with the cities of Sanibel and Cape Coral agreeing to send letters of opposition.

“We are concerned about the appropriation of water”, said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy.

“It looks like they really care about the sugar producers,” he said. “We are really concerned about pollution. We don’t want those blue-green algae. They are going in the wrong direction. »

Norman D. Briggs