Legislature agrees to fund Lake Okeechobee reservoir to curb discharges
By Isadora Rangel
April 25, 2017
TALLAHASSEE — The state House and Senate reached an unprecedented agreement to pay for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb discharges Tuesday — clearing the first of many hurdles before the proposal can come to fruition.
After initial resistance from the House, the chambers agreed to pay for Senate President Joe Negron’s priority, Speaker Richard Corcoran said, which is to store at least 78.2 billion gallons of excess lake water. The project was a demand from Negron’s Treasure Coast constituents who dealt with toxic algal blooms in the St. Lucie River last summer.
The deal is part of a compromise on an $83 billion state budget and a slew of priorities Negron and Corcoran vowed to accomplish in areas such as education and economic development. With big-ticket items resolved, lawmakers will hammer out other expenditures before passing a final budget by May 5.
The agreement is a feat for Negron, who overhauled the reservoir to get it through the Senate earlier this month and ease opposition from the sugar industry, which doesn’t want to sell land south of the lake to make way for the project. The proposal now would deepen a reservoir already planned on state land instead of buying 60,000 acres as originally proposed. The state still would need to buy, swap or break leases on smaller parcels.
The House still needs to pass the bill to enact the plan. A hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet, but Tuesday’s budget agreement signals the House might be close to doing so. The bill calls for $64 million in the first year and borrowing money in later years. Corcoran has opposed borrowing, and it’s unclear whether he and Negron cut a deal to pay cash and what other changes could be underway. Negron didn’t return a call for comment.
Also unclear is whether Negron and Corcoran agreed to fund Gov. Rick Scott’s $200 million request to help the federal government strengthen the dike around the lake after lawmakers snubbed the proposal last week.
To continue reading and to view a video prepared by TC Palm, please click here: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/indian-river-lagoon/politics/2017/04/25/house-senate-agree-build-lake-okeechobee-reservoir-curb-discharges/100892136/