Governor Charlie Crist will today be honored by the Everglades Foundation for his strong environmental record and continued commitment to Everglades restoration. The recognition will be presented to the Governor prior to the Everglades Foundation's Fifth Annual Everglades Benefit. Recently, Governor Crist unveiled his $2.1-billion 2010-11 budget recommendations to safeguard Florida's natural resources. These recommendations include investments in the Florida Forever land conservation program and Everglades restoration.
"Restoring and reviving Florida's Everglades is not only a matter of being a good steward of our beautiful state, it is about protecting the economic impact our natural resources have on all Floridians," said Governor Crist. "The Florida Everglades are recognized throughout the world for its lush environment and wildlife, and it remains an essential source of water for the people of Florida that we must protect."
Continuing his focus on protecting the health of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their estuaries, Governor Crist has proposed $50 million to ensure that Everglades projects will continue to restore a more natural water flow for this unique ecosystem and improve water quality for all of South Florida. Lake Okeechobee is the upstream water source for the Everglades and provides the water supply for nearby towns, agricultural operations and downstream ecosystems. The lake supports a multi-million dollar recreational and commercial fishery, as well as flood control for surrounding communities. During the past three years, Governor Crist has signed budgets designating $300 million toward Everglades restoration.
Governor Crist has also recommended $50 million to revive Florida Forever and continue the preservation of Florida's unique natural resources and wildlife. Since 1963, Florida has committed more than $7.5 billion to preserve and conserve roughly 3.8 million acres of land. However, the program funding was temporarily suspended last year due to economic challenges.
Earlier today, the Governor congratulated Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Oceanographic Center for receiving a $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act matching grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. The matching grant will support construction of the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science Research at the existing NSU Oceanographic Center at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach. The 86,000-square-foot Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science Research facility will house local, national and international coral reef research and will double the size of the current research area. The grant contributes toward the $30 million project which is expected to create 22 new academic jobs and 300 construction jobs, employ 50 graduate students, and preserve 22 existing academic jobs.
About Everglades Restoration
Florida's Everglades restoration efforts are truly historic. To date, Florida has invested more than $2.4 billion in the 30-year, $10.9 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the 50/50 state and federal partnership to restore and protect the Everglades. During the two tightest budget years in Florida history, $50 million has been dedicated for Everglades restoration in both 2008 and 2009 to continue the state's partnership with the federal government. The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District has also agreed to invest approximately $530 million for 72,500 acres of property south of Lake Okeechobee. The district will have an option to purchase another 107,500 acres for restoration within 10 years after closing.
In 2007, Governor Crist worked to expand the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act to safeguard the entire northern Everglades system, including the Lake Okeechobee watershed as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. He has worked to protect and improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water north of Lake Okeechobee. Additionally, the continuation of the Florida Forever program is a key component to securing the future of the Everglades.