A top priority of Senate President Joe Negron’s took a hit this week, after Sen. Marco Rubio said a plan to build reservoirs wouldn’t get federal money and would wipe out farming communities.
According to POLITICO Florida, Rubio said “there’s no federal money” for Negron’s proposed reservoirs.
“We’re going to end up with nothing,” he said according to the report. “And that’s been my argument from the beginning and that’s my message to him and he understood it.”
Sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, the Negron-backed proposal would authorize the state to buy 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The reservoir could hold 120 billion gallons of water, about as much water that was discharged into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016.
Supporters say the reservoir would add significant storage capacity south of the lake, which would help to manage lake levels during periods of high rainfall.
The bill gives the South Florida Water Management District until the end of the year to find a willing seller. But in February, a group of landowners in the Everglades Agriculture Area said they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”
Under the proposal, the state can choose to buy 153,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar under an existing contract signed by the state and company in 2010.
While Rubio has warned about what could happen if the state changes the timetable for Everglades projects, POLITICO Florida noted Rubio’s warning about the economic impact to farming communities around Lake Okeechobee is new. Rubio, according to POLITICO Florida, said if the state buys all the land “that means there’s no farming, that means these cities collapse, they basically turn into ghost towns.”
Negron met with constituents last week at Pahokee High School to talk about the plan, but there have been concerns about the economic impact of his proposal in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon has said he was concerned about lost job; he was the only member to vote against the bill in the Senate Appropriations Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee Committee earlier this month.
A bill (HB 761) by Rep. Thad Altman has been referred to three committees, but has not received its first committee hearing.