Senate bill could set stage for fight over water quality

Reporter: Lauren Leslie Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
An aerial image of Lake Okeechobee in July 2020. Credit: WINK News.

A fight over the future of our water quality is brewing. A bill in the Florida Senate would make requirements to release state money for water projects. Some believe this could threaten the fight for clean water.

There is clear opposition to the bill – from Governor DeSantis to water management to clean water advocates, many are against it. Why? Because the bill would reverse the effort to protect coastal waters.

Opponents fear that if the bill were to pass, we would see an increase in releases from Lake Okeechobee. That could cause our water quality to decrease.

Captain Daniel Andrews is with Captains for Clean Water. “It essentially prioritizes water supply for the sugar industry over operating Lake O in a way that is more flexible to send more water south during the dry season to the Caloosahatchee where we need it to ultimately result in less harmful discharges,” said Andrews.

The bill would also open the door to funding other projects but at the expense of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir. That state provides $64 million for that project.

But, this bill would redistribute that money to fund other water projects as well.

Those in favor of the bill say fishermen and water advocates are misunderstanding the push. Advocates say it will not cut funding to the EAA reservoir. It provides a framework to hold the South Florida Water Management District accountable for spending.

The full Senate is expected to vote on this bill on Thursday.

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