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Ron DeSantis, Brian Mast fight potential delay on Lake O reservoir

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Brian Mast expressed frustration over a land lease with potential to delay construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The South Florida Water Management District this morning will consider amending a land lease and executing a new agreement with New Hope Sugar Company on property in Palm Beach County.

“Given that the current lease does not expire until March and because we did not receive enough advance notice on this proposed vote to ensure that this extension would not delay construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir, we urge the South Florida Water Management District to delay their planned vote tomorrow,” reads a joint statement from DeSantis and Mast.

DeSantis during his gubernatorial campaign repeatedly promised to complete a number of Everglades restoration efforts, including construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project.

As he prepares to be sworn in as governor, keeping momentum on the reservoir may become his first big battle.

Notably, Big Sugar spent heavily during the Republican Primary trying to stop DeSantis, a foe of sugar interests during his Congressional tenure, trying to prevent the Ponte Vedra Republican from securing the nomination.

Staff for the water management district recommends trustees today extend a lease with the Okeelanta Corporation and execute a new lease with New Hope Sugar on more than 16,000 acres in Palm Beach County.

Officials say that’s in the spirit of legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year aimed at constructing the reservoir.

“The EAA Southern Storage Reservoir is a critical component of Everglades Restoration and our joint efforts to prevent harmful algal blooms,” reads the statement from DeSantis and Mast.

“We will not support any lease extension that could delay the construction of the reservoir in direct contradiction of the intention of both the United States Congress and Florida Legislature.”

President Donald Trump last month signed off on federal funding for the reservoir as part of a $6-billion water infrastructure plan.

DeSantis stressed his support for a reservoir during his push to victory in Tuesday night’s gubernatorial election.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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