In what environmentalists are calling a significant breakthrough in Everglades restoration efforts, incoming Senate President Joe Negron leapfrogged over agricultural industry opposition and on Tuesday called for a massive $2.4 billion state and federal land-buying program to buy sugar land to store water south of Lake Okeechobee and repair the fragile Everglades ecosystem.
The idea — to store and clean phosphorus-laden water before releasing it into Everglades National Park — has been demanded by environmentalists for the past 16 years, but efforts to buy the land needed for the project have been sidelined in the face of agriculture and sugar-industry opposition. Instead, lawmakers and water management district officials have pursued clean-up projects on the periphery of the Everglades Agricultural Area, not in the heart of the region, which could displace working farmland.
“All the evidence that I see confirms what I'm here to announce today: We must buy land south,”' Negron said to loud applause at a press conference in his hometown, Stuart.
Negron’s announcement comes after a summer of polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries have led to toxic algae blooms along the state’s Treasure Coast and in his hometown.
Negron, a Republican, announced that ending the discharges and finding the funds for the land-buy south of the lake would be his “No. 1 personal priority.” More here.
Here's Negron's press release: