Gov. Rick Scott's announcement during Wednesday morning's Cabinet meeting that Florida will invest $130 million to continue work on restoring the Everglades and South Florida's ecosystem won cheers from state environmental leaders. See some of their comments at the end of this story.
Said Scott, This $130 million investment from the Its Your Money Tax Cut Budget will fund critical projects that will improve water quality for families and businesses that rely on these natural treasures. These dollars will go toward improving water quality, mitigating impacts of Lake Okeechobees discharges on our estuaries, and diverting more fresh water south to help restore the Everglades.
Less than a year after Scott announced an $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan, the $130 million investment for the Everglades and South Floridas ecosystem include $40 million to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area for Martin and St. Lucie counties.
A governor's office press release stated that in addition, this $130 million investment includes $30 million for a three-year installment for the Tamiami Trail project, which will provide necessary water to Everglades National Park, $32 million in recurring funding as part of the Governors Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan and funds to complete the Kissimmee River restoration project, which will store and clean water heading into Lake Okeechobee.
This major investment comes as many Everglades and South Florida restoration projects have already been permitted and construction initiated to improve water quality and quantity. In recent months, the South Florida Water Management District has begun work on large-scale reservoirs designed to store and ship water to stormwater treatment areas before cleaning and sending it south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. At the same time, the Department of Environmental Protection continues to work with local stakeholders on restoration plans for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.
Governor Scott solidified his reputation as the Everglades Governor with his announcement today, said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. His dogged pursuit to improve the water quality in Americas Everglades is encouraging for all of us and his emphasis on restoring the Everglades remains unmatched. Governor Scotts plan to store water north of Lake Okeechobee in the Kissimmee River Basin and divert water south of the lake shows families living along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers that he has heard their voices.
During the Cabinet meeting, Scott also highlighted the lack of federal commitment resulting from recent actions by the Obama Administration in Washington.
Said Scott, While on the state level were working hard to protect and restore our natural treasures, we recently received some disappointing news from Washington. The Obama Administration decided the Everglades didnt need all the funding Congress offered. It is my hope that the Obama Administration will not reduce critical funding for Florida projects in the future.
In Omnibus discussions, Congress initially agreed to provide more than $80 million for the Everglades. The Obama Administration, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, however, indicated they could not spend it all and requested $46 million. As a result, the Everglades lost tens of millions of dollars in federal funding this year. This is the lowest amount the federal government has appropriated for Everglades Restoration projects in the last 10 years.
Here is what some of Florida's environmental leaders said about Scotts commitment to the Everglades:
Dan Kimball U.S. Department of the Interior said, I appreciate Governor Scotts problem-solving approach as we continue to move ahead with our federal and state partnership, working together to achieve our restoration goals for Floridas Everglades.
Eric Eikenberg Everglades Foundation said, Governor Scott understands the importance of improving the Everglades ecosystem, which is evident not only with his water quality plan but also with his $130 million investment for improving America's Everglades.
Pepe Fanjul, Jr. Florida Crystals said, There is no better testament of Gov. Scotts leadership abilities than the fact he has been able to successfully kick-start Everglades restoration, including the financing and construction of important water projects."
Eric Draper Audubon Florida said, We are seeing real progress on the Everglades. Governor Scott deserves credit for following through on projects to get water clean and delivered to the natural system.
Robert Coker U.S. Sugar said, Governor Scotts budget recognizes the importance of working together to preserve, restore and maintain Floridas Everglades and the communities it supports.
Larry Kiker Lee County Commission Chair said, "The Everglades restoration projects Governor Scott wants to fund in this year's budget will also help Southwest Florida by providing cleaner water down the Caloosahatchee River, the lifeblood of Lee County. I applaud the Governor's continued efforts to help Southwest Florida families."
Sarah Heard Martin County Commission Chair said, "I applaud Governor Scott for his continued commitment to Everglades restoration and funding that will benefit the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. This is an important step on the journey to restoring the Everglades, which will help improve water quality in Martin County."