Update: On 9 May 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that will provide extra funds to create a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The new law allows the state to borrow $800 million to cover Florida's half of the estimated $1.6 billion cost of the state-federal project.
A bill to construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida has passed both the Florida House and Senate. Thousands of Floridians have been active in trying to find a solution to ongoing polluted discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee east and west to the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.
These discharges have killed marine life and turned once thriving estuaries into havens for toxic algae. Learn more about the algal blooms in the September 2016 issue of ECO.
Under Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), the new reservoir will store excess water from the Lake and clean it before sending it south to aid the Everglades and Florida Bay.
Darrel Brand of the Rivers Coalition, a non-profit group aiming to stop pollution of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon told ECO, “The Rivers Coalition mission statement is to stop the discharges. Sending treated water south is the only solution that accomplishes that mission.”
Brand added that after many years of petitions, lawsuits, letter writing campaigns and protests, this is the first bill to come through the Florida legislature. He credited the hard work of grassroots citizens with making it happen.
At the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference, held April 17-20 in Coral Springs Florida, while discussing a recent seagrass die-off in Florida Bay, Dr. Chris Kelble, Deputy Director, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division for NOAA, stated that the best long-term solution to cyclical seagrass-killing conditions in the Bay would be to increase the flow of freshwater south from the Everglades, something this bill aims to accomplish.
The new flow will also serve to rehydrate the Biscayne Aquifer upon which one-third of Floridians depend upon for drinking water. Learn more about this in the April 2017 issue of ECO.
“SB 10 will facilitate moving treated water south into the Everglades where it belongs,” said Manley Fuller, Florida Wildlife Federation President. Florida Wildlife Federation and its allies worked with many Senators and Representatives on this bill as it moved through the Session.
SB 10 now awaits the signature of Governor Rick Scott.