Florida’s Senate President-elect Joe Negron announced on August 9, 2016, that he’ll seek state lawmakers’ approval for a $2.4 billion plan to store water south of Lake Okeechobee.
The plan would require the acquisition of about 60,000 acres of land in an area mostly occupied by sugar growers and farmers. Conveyance and storage of massive amounts of water would be included, as well as the treatment of the polluted water before it is released, when needed, back into the Everglades.
The goal is to reduce Lake Okeechobee water outflows that have contributed to the growth of blue-green algae on Florida's east and west coasts.
"Our community has been plagued by tremendous environmental and economic impacts as hundreds of millions of gallons of water are released from Lake Okeechobee each year,” Negron said in a press release. “Permanent storage south of Lake Okeechobee is unquestionably needed as part of the overall plan to solve this catastrophic problem.”
Negron, a Republican, represents part of the Treasure Coast. The area has been plagued this year by blue-green algae -- a result of polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee and nearby waterways. Being able to store and filter the water in reservoirs south of the lake would dramatically limit flows to Florida's coasts and curb the algae problem, along with the devastation that comes from introducing freshwater (clean or dirty) into saltwater environments.
The plan that Senator Negron has laid out is a key component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) that’s been in place now for 16 years.
Florida and the federal government would split the costs of the land and the water storage facilities. Florida would cover its $1.2 billion bill with $100 million annual withdrawals from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund -- a fund voters approved in 2014 for the restoration and conservation of the Everglades.