Last week, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) released a progress report on Senate Bill 10 (SB10) to the Florida Legislature. The SFWMD failed to use all of the tools available in Senate Bill 10 to find the “optimal configuration for the EAA Reservoir”, which it was tasked to do in the law.
Harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges have plagued the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers for decades. Meanwhile, Florida Bay has been starved of freshwater, which resulted in a 40,000-acre seagrass die-off in the summer of 2015. The SFWMD did not give SB10 a fair chance. They designed concepts for a reservoir that are simply too small, at the expense of America’s Everglades, our jobs and our economy. A larger project footprint with more filter marshes means less Lake Okeechobee discharges and more water for Florida Bay. The SFWMD refuses to explore options with a larger footprint. The State of Florida owns over 15,000 acres of land that is leased to sugarcane growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area. This land could be utilized for land swaps around the proposed reservoir site to increase treatment capacity and further decrease Lake Okeechobee discharges, and send more water to Florida Bay.
After nine public meetings and input from hundreds of fishing guides, recreational anglers and many other Floridians asking for a better option, the SFWMD delivered a report that failed to address our concerns. Governor Scott has the ability to get this project back on track, and provide a bright future for America’s Everglades. To do this, he must instruct the SFWMD to give us an option that follows the intent of the law and includes a larger footprint with more water treatment capacity so our estuaries will get more benefits from this project.