In a letter to South Florida Water Management District Director Ernie Marks, Senate President Joe Negron Thursday expressed his concern that a preliminary model for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir called for in last session's Senate Bill 10 may have a too-limited footprint, which could set off more negotiations with the federal government and possibly delay Everglades restoration.
Last month, the South Florida Water Management District unveiled its preliminary modeling that depicts South Florida's current water storage and conveyance capabilities, with the baseline modeling being the necessary first step in quantifying which alternative storage feature configuration south of Lake Okeechobee offers the greatest benefit to reduce harmful lake discharges to estuaries east and west.
"I am impressed by the commitment the District has made in planning the reservoir and the transparency the District has demonstrated by tracking its progress on its website and holding numerous public meetings," Negron wrote.
But he said he wants to see faster work on expanding the reservoir's footprint, as SB 10 called for.
"The bill, now law, anticipates use of the A-2 and potentially the A-1 parcel and lands to the west of the two parcels," wrote Negron. "The law also emphasizes termination of leases, land swaps, and land acquisition if additional land is necessary for the EAA reservoir project. What I hope to see from the District is a proposal that is workable, that we can make a reality as expeditiously as possible to decrease the need for harmful discharges to the estuaries."
In 1992, the federal government created the “consent order” to set water quality parameters for Everglades restoration. SFWMD attorneys, pointing to the Everglades meeting targets and construction for on-time cleanup projects, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate the order earlier this year.
SB 10 dictates how Florida can convert state-owned land in the A-1 and A-2 parcels to create a 14-foot deep storage reservoir. The legislation also allows for the SFWMD to negotiate the purchase of additional land beginning in 2019.
Negron said Thursday he hoped the district would capitalize on the opportunity, if need be.
“If the District needs to be flexible with the footprint to put an effective reservoir plan into action, I hope it will consider using any additional land available, if necessary,” he wrote. “It was our goal as the Legislature to give the District the tools it needs to develop a plan that is realistic and will ultimately receive approval from our partners in the federal government.”
Negron also urged District officials to begin conversations with the federal government early so revisions to the plan could coincide with the reservoir's development.
The Senate president, who represents the southern Treasure Coast and was SB 10's chief proponent, said he is “optimistic” the district and the federal government will make headway in cleaning up the discharges which have caused tragic effects on the local environment.
“With continuing efforts like those that have been put forward to date, we will make this project a reality and see an end to the catastrophic effects that excessive discharges from Lake Okeechobee have had on our estuaries and local communities,” Negron said.
See Negron's full letter by clicking here or calling up the attachment below.