As the Legislature considers the future of the state’s water rights in Senate Bill 2508, a new poll shows a sizable majority of Floridians want Florida, not Washington, to be in charge.
St. Pete Polls surveyed Floridians statewide between Feb. 24 and 25, finding 87% of respondents felt it essential for the state control to remain in control of water supply. When given a choice between the state or federal government controlling water supply to avoid water shortages, nearly 79% sided with the state compared to 21% in favor of the federal government.
In February, Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton introduced SB 2508, which among other things, institutes accountability measures for the South Florida Water Management District, the agency overseeing the Lake Okeechobee watershed. The bill provides additional certainty for the state to deliver promises of water to permitted users, including cities such as West Palm Beach, Native American tribes such as the Seminoles, South Florida’s farming community, as well as environmental uses, such as the Florida Everglades.
An initial version of the bill drew fire from Florida environmental lobbying groups such as the Everglades Foundation and Captains for Clean Water over concerns that it would negatively impact Everglades projects such as the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.
In response, Albritton filed an amendment to clarify provisions that the bill’s provisions don’t affect a 2017 law on water resources. While the amendment was not a “deal” with the Governor’s Office, Senators hope the measure will address Ron DeSantis’ concerns.
Cities relying on water from Lake Okeechobee, such as Okeechobee and West Palm Beach, have called upon members of the Legislature to support the bill. In a tweet earlier in Feb., the city of West Palm Beach thanked Sens. Lauren Book, Kathleen Passidomo, Ben Albritton, Bobby Powell, Tina Polsky and Lori Berman for supporting the legislation.
“Thanks to bipartisan support for #SB2508, protecting the safe water supply for nearly 130,000 WPB residents, the Town of Palm Beach and Palm Beach County,” the city’s tweet said.
Thanks to bipartisan support for #SB2508, protecting the safe water supply for nearly 130,000 WPB residents, the Town of Palm Beach and Palm Beach County. @leaderBookFL @Kathleen4SWFL @RepAlbritton @BobbyPowellJr @TinaPolsky @LoriBerman @WPTV @WPBF25News @CBS12 @PBPost
— City of West Palm Beach (@westpalmbch) February 17, 2022
City of West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James raised similar concerns over the city’s water supply, noting in a letter in November 2021 to Congresswoman Lois Frankel that choosing a flawed model to manage Lake Okeechobee could jeopardize the availability of drinking water.
“I know the Corps is in a hurry to complete the LOSOM [Lake Okeechobee management] process, but that is no excuse for making decisions on a flawed model that does not accurately predict the impact of the various alternatives on the NPB (North Palm Beach) Area,” James said.
St. Pete Polls surveyed through an automated phone call polling system. The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and that of the active voter population for Florida.
The survey’s sample size was 1,614 and a 2.4% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.