State Budget News is Good for Environment and Infrastructure

Florida Legislature to Begin State Budget Negotiations

As we enter the final three weeks of the 2020 Legislative Session, lawmakers will soon begin budget negotiations.

The House and Senate have already passed their initial budgets, which provides insight into what the final budget will likely look like.

So far, the news is good for Florida’s infrastructure and environment. That’s especially important considering that 26 million people are expected to call Florida home by 2030, and understanding that long-term, sustainable water and environmental policies will be needed to meet our growing needs.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s budget will likely exceed $10 billion for another fiscal year. Florida is on track for record funding for environmental projects, which are broken out into smaller categories below.

SENATE (SB 2500)HOUSE (HB 5001)
FDOT$10.3 Billion$10.3 Billion
Everglades Restoration$31.9 Million$325 Million
Water Quality Improvements$198 Million$122 Million
Florida Forever$125 Million$23 Million
Springs Restoration$50 Million$50 Million
Broadband in M-CORES$5 Million$5 Million
Affordable Housing$387 Million$144 Million

The Florida Chamber will continue to advance and support long-term investments in Florida’s infrastructure and environment.

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If you have questions or feedback, please contact Christopher Emmanuel at cemmanuel@flchamber.com.

Everglades Restoration Still Best Solution

By Joe Collins, Former chairman, South Florida Water Management District
Naples Daily News, August 7, 2016

 

In 2000, state and federal water managers began to undertake the largest and most advanced engineering and restoration project ever designed when they began the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hailed the plan as an “innovative, comprehensive, cutting-edge approach” that when completed “will be a win-win for the environment and the public needs of Southeast Florida.”

Representatives from environmental and agricultural communities joined elected Republicans and Democrats alike in praising the plan and eagerly awaiting its construction.

The plan was developed after years of studying the best approach to water storage, treatment and delivery of water to the Everglades ecosystem. The facts then, as they do now, suggested that the vast majority of the water enters Lake Okeechobee from the north, and that storage and treatment near the source is preferable before it enters into Lake Okeechobee.

When considering CERP, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) also considered many alternatives such as the flowway concept known as “Plan 6.” In recent months, some critics have revived calls for the flowway concept, but the plan’s real shortcomings still remain.

In 1999, for instance, the district commissioned a feasibility study looking into the flowway. The study concluded that the concept “creates a water supply burden on the system without clear hydrologic benefits.”

In a 2007 presentation to the governing board, district engineers and scientists noted that among other things, flows from a hypothetical flowway to Everglades National Park would remain too low, “exacerbate the already high stages in the northern parts” of the water conservation areas, and have “very low habitat suitability.”

Despite claims that the flowway would return Lake Okeechobee to a more natural state, the presentation concluded that “water deliveries to or from a flowway will never be natural because Lake Okeechobee has changed.”

In 2015, the University of Florida’s Water Institute study on Everglades restoration also noted the challenges with the flowway concept, concluding that “in both the (Corps of Engineers) Reconnaissance Report (1994) and the SFWMD River of Grass planning process (2009), results indicated that a passive … flowway is not the optimal approach for addressing problems of too much water going to the estuaries in the wet season or too little water going to the Everglades in the dry season.”

It was ultimately these factors that would cause SFWMD and the state and federal governments to develop the managed storage, treatment and delivery projects that make up CERP today. Once completed, CERP will provide tangible relief to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river basins and reduce the need to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee. Additionally, the projects, including the expansion of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs, will store and treat water near the source before it flows into the estuary.

Leaders in Tallahassee and Washington need to finish what was started in 2000 and fully fund the CERP projects, which are designed to bring relief to the estuaries that are interconnected to the Lake Okeechobee system.

Progress has been frustratingly slow, and while it is tempting to get distracted by sound-bite science promising easy fixes, CERP continues to remain the best option for fixing Florida’s water problems throughout the Everglades ecosystem.

Collins is currently a vice president for Lykes Bros. Inc.