Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced a $130 million investment to continue work on restoring the Everglades and South Florida's ecosystem as part of the "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget."
Governor Scott said, "This $130 million investment from the "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget' will fund critical projects that will improve water quality for families and businesses that rely on these natural treasures. These dollars will go towards improving water quality, mitigating impacts of Lake Okeechobee's discharges on our estuaries, and diverting more fresh water south to help restore the Everglades."
Less than a year after Governor Scott announced an unprecedented $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan, the $130 million investment for the Everglades and South Florida's ecosystem include $40 million to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area for Martin and St. Lucie counties. In addition, this $130 million investment includes $30 million for a three-year installment for the Tamiami Trail project, which will provide necessary water to Everglades National Park, $32 million in recurring funding as part of the Governor's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan and funds to complete the Kissimmee River restoration project, which will store and clean water heading into Lake Okeechobee.
This major investment comes as many Everglades and South Florida restoration projects have already been permitted and construction initiated to improve water quality and quantity. In recent months, the South Florida Water Management District has begun work on large-scale reservoirs designed to store and ship water to stormwater treatment areas before cleaning and sending it south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. At the same time, the Department of Environmental Protection continues to work with local stakeholders on restoration plans for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.
"Governor Scott solidified his reputation as the Everglades Governor with his announcement today," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "His dogged pursuit to improve the water quality in America's Everglades is encouraging for all of us and his emphasis on restoring the Everglades remains unmatched. Governor Scott's plan to store water north of Lake Okeechobee in the Kissimmee River Basin and divert water south of the lake shows families living along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers that he has heard their voices."
During the Cabinet meeting, Governor Rick Scott also highlighted the lack of federal commitment resulting from recent actions by the Obama Administration in Washington.
Governor Scott said, "While on the state level we're working hard to protect and restore our natural treasures, we recently received some disappointing news from Washington. The Obama Administration decided the Everglades didn't need all the funding Congress offered. It is my hope that the Obama Administration will not reduce critical funding for Florida projects in the future."
In Omnibus discussions, Congress initially agreed to provide more than $80 million for the Everglades. The Obama Administration, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, however, indicated they could not spend it all and requested $46 million. As a result, the Everglades lost tens of millions of dollars in federal funding this year. This is the lowest amount the federal government has appropriated for Everglades Restoration projects in the last 10 years.