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Southwest Florida lawmakers press for storage, restoration north of Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project could cut discharges significantly.

Three lawmakers representing Southwest Florida urged water management officials to support a storage project north of Lake Okeechobee.

Republican state Reps. Dane Eagle, Ray Rodrigues and Spencer Roach sent letters to the South Florida Water Management District on the matter. The three Lee County-based lawmakers pressed District officials to support the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.

“As a born-and-raised Southwest Floridian, I share the frustration of the people in my district who are concerned about water quality and have made the issue among my top priorities,” wrote Eagle, state House Republican Leader.

“The people of Florida expect to see progress on the projects that science says will help improve water quality in our estuary.”

Letters were all addressed to Drew Bartlett, executive director of the District.

The Governing Board for the district meets Thursday at Florida Gulf Coast University and expects to discuss the project.

None of the lawmakers could attend the meeting because they have committee meetings in Tallahassee. But all emphatically supported the watershed project, which combined with other storage and treatment projects could cut discharges into the Caloosahatchee River by as much as 80%.

“Of all the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Lake Okeechobee Water Restoration Project (LOWRP) which includes 80 Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells, represents one of the most immediate and effective solutions that can provide residents impacted by water quality issues some much-needed relief,” Rodrigues wrote.

He noted that Congress will consider reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act in 2020, which could authorize further projects and studies. Based on that, the time to finish this state project is now, Rodrigues said, so further spending can be considered in any Congressional spending next year.

All lawmakers stressed that in the 2019 Legislative Session lawmakers passed a budget with historic Everglades Restoration funding, showing a state desire for progress.

“Restoring and improving our waterways is not possible without both state and federal partners working together cohesively,” wrote Roach.

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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