Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal to build water storage reservoirs on 60,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) will help stop discharges of dirty water to estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee while increasing freshwater flows to the Everglades. Audubon is all in on the Negron proposal and supports bonding to buy the EAA land with debt service coming from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The sugar industry and other special interests are fighting this water storage proposal.
Having helped pass the Legacy Act last year to require the Florida Legislative to use voter-approved funds to support Florida springs and the Everglades, Audubon will again promote spending on land conservation along with Everglades and springs. Audubon’s budget recommendations include:
- Conservation Land Acquisition - $150 million
- Everglades and Estuaries - $200 million
- Springs - $50 million
- Lake Apopka Restoration - $5 million
Audubon also supports continuation funding for public land management and agency positions to implement water quality programs.
In spite of the passage of Senate Bill 552 which addressed water quality, water supply and spending on water infrastructure, 2016’s algae blooms in coastal estuaries and spread of algae in many Florida springs showed that Florida’s water policies and spending are falling short of solving Florida’s water crisis. Audubon will continue to recommend that legislators:
- Restore water management budgets to provide funds for water resource protection projects, science, and land management
- Upgrade stormwater regulations for new developments
- Strengthen wetland rules and enforcement to benefit nature’s most productive systems and support fish, birds, and the entire ecosystem
- Control sewage in all its forms rather than ignoring the growing impact of the second largest source of nutrients in Florida’s waterways
- Require water conservation to meet new future water supply needs
- Prohibit fracking-type practices that endanger water resources
- Ensure that rules approved for the Central Florida Water Initiative are more protective than existing water management district rules