Is North Florida losing the water wars again? “Stand Up for North Florida” says yes, and Monday they called a presser in Tallahassee to discuss it.
Their grievance is with Senate Majority Leader Joe Negron and his “plan to buy more than 60,000 acres of farmland in south Florida to build a another reservoir for water filtration.”
That plan: a proposed 50/50 match between Tallahassee and Washington, with the goal of buying the land south of the lake and then building a reservoir, to mitigate against issues like the algae blooms so prominent in last year’s political narrative.
While those blooms are a consideration, so is equity in resource allocation, “Stand Up for North Florida” asserts.
“Water is one of our most precious resources, and it is vital that North and Central Florida are treated equitably when it comes to state dollars spent to protect our water,” said former Rep. Steve Southerland, who chairs the coalition.
“Certainly there are very real issues regarding Lake Okeechobee that need to be addressed, but we plan to work hard to make sure that taxpayer money is not spent on a plan that is scientifically questionable and that unfairly benefits South Florida over the rest of the state,” Southerland added.
An issue the group has: despite North Florida containing 70 percent of the state’s river watersheds and what it calls the “vast majority” of the state’s springs, last year 94 percent of all Amendment 1 plans went to South Florida.\
Agitations against this proposal were made in 2016, and clearly are being made again, including from Negron’s own district.
“Any spending decision we make must be wise and with the taxpayers’ interests fully in mind,” said Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican who comprises the eastern flank of this coalition.
“Florida is facing a tight budget over the next two to three years, and it is important that we not unfairly penalize one part of the state over another,” Fant added.
And Rep. Brad Drake embodies the western flank of the coalition.
“Those of us from the Panhandle and all across North Florida are united in our belief that making sure water resources in our part of the state is not just good for us, but for the entire state. We look forward to working together to make sure Amendment 1 resources are spent in a way that protects all of us, not just South Florida,” Drake noted.