$2.8 Million for Deluge-Damaged St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee Waterways
Around the State
Three weeks to the day after state Sen. Joe Negron's Senate Select Committe met in Stuart to find ways to take quick action on the toxic St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River basins, in rides the cavalry.
Meeting in Tallahassee Thursday, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's request to spend $2,769,525 to improve water quality in the wounded waterways connected to Lake Okeechobee.
Projects include operational and structural changes to existing system infrastructure that will help reduce the estuary flows by moving excess Lake Okeechobee water south rather than east and west to the estuaries.
They also include additional water storage, and both functions will be used to help reduce the flow of water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
“Water storage is a positive first step to improving water quality to the St. Lucie River, and the action today by the Legislative Budget Commission shows the Legislature’s commitment to improve water in this area of the state,” said Negron. “More needs to be done, and I will continue working with DEP and the South Florida Water Management District to build on this momentum.”
Following nearly two months of intense rainfall over Lake Okeechobee, legislators and other state leaders have been made aware of the complexity of the South Florida ecosystem.
DEP is working with SFWMD and other state agencies, local governments and stakeholders on restoration of the St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.
"These additional funds from the Legislative Budget Commission will allow DEP and the Water Management District to continue its efforts to improve water quality in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. in a written statement. "DEP appreciates the commitment of the Legislature and Governor Scott to getting the water right."
Local governments have already invested $230 million to address stormwater runoff for the St. Lucie River and Estuary as part of the Department's restoration plan, with another $13 million expected to be spent in the first phase of the restoration plan.
The Department's three restoration plans adopted for the Indian River Lagoon in February have seen more than $300 million invested or to be invested in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and urban and agricultural best management practices.
"This funding will continue the Department's focus on improving water quality through tangible actions to reduce impacts to watersheds," said Drew Bartlett, DEP deputy secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration. "Our water quality experts are dedicated to working with local partners to identify and fund projects that reduce nutrient impacts to our waterways."
The additional funding by the Florida Legislature comes on the heels of two major announcements last month by Scott, committing $130 million to projects designed to improve water quality in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and send more water south to the Everglades.
The governor announced $40 million in funding to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area project, which will cut the project time in half. The reservoir is designed to clean diverted water from Lake Okeechobee and stormwater runoff year-round.
A week later he committed $90 million to funding the Tamiami Trail project, which will bridge a new 2.6-mile segment of Tamiami Trail in South Florida.
SFWMD Executive Director Blake Guillory said, “The District deeply appreciates Senator Negron’s commitment to protecting South Florida's water resources and the funding approved today by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.”