Gov. Rick Scott supports south reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges
By Isadora Rangel
April 17, 2017
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott supports a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb discharges, and he wants lawmakers to allocate $200 million this year to help the federal government finish strengthening the dike around it, he said in a news conference Monday.
Scott said he supports Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal to build a reservoir on up to 31,000 acres of state land, but he stopped short of saying he supports the current version of Senate Bill 10. He said he expects the bill will change before the May 5 end of the legislative session.
The bill also seeks to buy, swap or break leases to free up additional land needed for the reservoir and to borrow up to $1.2 billion for the state’s half of the project; the federal government would pay the other half.
Scott’s endorsement came after Negron, R-Stuart, changed his original proposal to buy 60,000 acres from Glades-area farmers and Clewiston-based sugar giant U.S. Sugar Corp. Landowners said they did not want to sell or kill agricultural jobs by taking farmland out of production.
“I support storage south of the lake … which utilizes state-owned land and does not take people’s private land,” Scott said Monday. “I don’t believe in taking people’s private lands. I don’t want to see people lose their jobs.”
Scott disagreed with Negron’s assertion the Legislature must borrow money for the project. As Florida continues to grow, it has enough money to build the reservoir and repair the dike “without taking on extra debt,” Scott said. He didn’t specify the source of such money, but Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said paying cash is possible because construction wouldn’t start until years from now and the Legislature would have time to save and pay as the project progresses.