It’s been a rough couple of news cycles for Senate Bill 10, with a Republican U.S. Senator and the St. Johns Riverkeeper mounting opposition to the Lake Okeechobee reservoir measure.
The bill filed by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley would bond money backed with Amendment 1 funds to purchase land south of the lake for water storage.
The Bradley bill adds a new section to the Florida Statute: “Reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area,” with the hope of creating 360,000 acre-feet of storage capacity, a goal that requires acquiring 60,000 acres of land.
$1.2 billion in bond proceeds would be used for the purchase of the land. The project is subject to congressional approval, and if that is granted as expected, the feds would offer a 50/50 match of that $1.2 billion.
The section declares an “emergency” in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, due to “harmful freshwater discharges” east and west of the lake that have created algae blooms and other issues.
However, Sen. Marco Rubio cautions against any expectation that this will get federal funding.
Rubio said “there’s no federal money” for the project, adding that if the state buys all the land “that means there’s no farming, that means these cities collapse, they basically turn into ghost towns.”
The St. Johns Riverkeeper, meanwhile, had its own take: the “legislation that would acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir and provide dedicated funding for the St. Johns has been dramatically amended for the worse.”
“Senator Rob Bradley and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources have amended SB 10 to shift state funds for acquiring land for conservation toward acquiring land for water supply development. The amended bill would encourage surface and groundwater withdrawal projects and unsustainable growth. It does not encourage water conservation. This would open up the St. Johns River and other waterways to surface water withdrawals and more threats from sprawl, while providing fewer funds to acquire critical conservation lands,” read a statement from the Riverkeeper.
Despite federal and environmental wariness, Sen. Bradley told us Friday in Keystone Heights that he still feels confident that SB 10 isn’t dead in the water.
“Not at all. We’ve made progress in the last week on moving that legislation forward,” Bradley said.
“The St. Johns Riverkeeper objection is a head-scratcher, considering that included in SB 10 in its current structure is a dedicated revenue stream to the St. Johns River and the Keystone Lakes,” Bradley added.
“I challenge some of these environmental groups to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. They may not like every single part of SB 10, but if you’re an environmental group and you are against SB 10, then you need to question whether you are truly representing the interest of the environmental community,” Bradley concluded.