Florida Lawmakers Consider New Bill To Fund Everglades Restoration Programs

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    Tim Suereth
    timsuereth.com

    Fearing fallout from their constituents for a lack of funding for Everglades restoration programs in the 2016 budget, the Florida House of Representatives will now consider a new bill, sponsored by Stuart Representative Gayle Harrell, to fund pending programs that will restore the Florida Everglades, in what governor Rick Scott calls “a historic investment in the environment.”

    The ‘Legacy Florida’ bill creates a source of funding for Florida Everglades restoration programs. Representative Harrell is following-up on his commitment to clean up the everglades. He said, “Cleaning up the St. Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades has been a priority for me since I was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives. The future of our way of life is linked directly to the health of our rivers. ‘Legacy Florida’ will provide the resources to make it possible for our children and grandchildren to enjoy these natural treasures.”

    Tim Suereth
    timsuereth.com

    If the bill passes in the 2016 Legislative session, ‘Legacy Florida’ will be funded by the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to pay for the following:

    – From funds distributed into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) a minimum of the lesser of 25 percent or $200 million must be appropriated annually for Everglades projects that implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Long-Term Plan, the final Lake Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan, and the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.

    – From these dedicated Everglades funds, $32 million must be distributed each fiscal year through the 2023-2024 fiscal year to the South Florida Water Management District for the Long-Term Plan.

    – From the dedicated Everglades funds remaining after deducting the $32 million, a minimum of the lesser of 76.5 percent or $100 million must be appropriated for 10 years (through 2025-26) for the planning, design, engineering and construction of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

    Tim Suereth
    timsuereth.com

    The bill additionally specifies that the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management district give preference to those Everglades restoration projects that reduce discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee estuaries, in a timely manner.

    The Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Steve Crisafulli stated, “As a seventh generation Floridian, I have made the care of our natural resources a legislative priority. I want to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty of well-managed land and water. The Everglades is at the heart of our natural resources, and I believe consistent funding will help preserve and protect this national treasure.”

    Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is also supportive of the environmental bill. He releases a written statement saying, “The Everglades is a nationally recognized, environmental treasure that is a source of pride for Floridians, provides a home to many unique species of wildlife and supplies water to more than 8 million people in Florida. We have the vision and science-based strategies to restore this precious ecosystem, but only with adequate funding can we achieve our goals. The leadership of the Florida House of Representatives has demonstrated a strong commitment to Florida’s natural resources with the ‘Legacy Florida’ proposal.”

    The Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy, Temperince Morgan, cheered the use of Amendment 1 money. She said,“The Nature Conservancy applauds the Legislature for creating a steady and predictable funding stream for projects that will improve water quality and quantity for the Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. We believe this significant commitment of Amendment 1 funds assures completion of projects that help to restore essential habitats for Florida’s imperiled species.”

    Tim Suereth
    timsuereth.com

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