Florida Senate passes controversial water bill

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Lake Okeechobee

A group of clean water activists is upset after Florida Senators overwhelmingly approved a controversial water bill.

More than a hundred environmentalists, fishermen and others gathered in Tallahassee on Thursday, some with boats in tow, to voice their opposition to the bill.

It came after the lawmaker behind the bill made changes to it Wednesday night.

Senate Bill 2508, in part, looks to ensure Lake Okeechobee operations meet the needs of people across south Florida, from water supply users to reducing high-volume discharges to the coasts.

On Thursday, fellow senators grilled the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ben Albritton, about why he brought this forward and the intent behind it.

Opponents fear it will prioritize agricultural water use over reducing lake releases and potentially damaging wetlands.

The bill also calls for holding the South Florida Water Management District more accountable in its spending by filing an annual report on water resources management.

Senator Ben Albritton said, “I think we’re… we were around $30 million or so ten years ago, this is state money, and now it’s, it’s ten-fold that, I can’t believe it’s out of line for us to make sure that they’re following their own programs and their own plans.”

South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss said,Ā  “I think that I think that accountability absolutely has to be there, and the answer that is the accountability already is there. We’re audited every three years by the Florida Department of Auditors, we’re looked at by the chief financial officer, we audit ourselves.”

The district’s governing board chairman said they work very closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ensure all funding is appropriately spent.

The next stop for this is the Florida House which meets on Feb. 22.

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