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News: Opposition to south-of-the-lake water plan heats up

February, 2017 for www.flkeysnews.com

A push to preserve Florida Bay and the Everglades by acquiring land for water-storage areas south of Lake Okeechobee will not come without opposition.

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed state 2017-18 budget comes with a “frequently asked questions” summary that rejects funding for water-storage areas in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

It reads: “Does the Governor’s budget include money to purchase land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee? No. The budget includes more than $215 million for several water storage projects around Lake Okeechobee which will provide more than 170 billion gallons of water storage once completed.”

Toxic algae photographed from overhead in 2016.

Toxic algae photographed from overhead in 2016.

Advocates for Florida Bay and the Everglades contend water storage-and-treatment reservoirs south of the lake are essential to restoring freshwater flows.

On Wednesday, the South Florida Water Management District issued a statement on what the agency calls a “historic plan to protect South Florida’s coastal estuaries.”

It focuses on a system of reservoirs and deepwater-injection wells north of Lake Okeechobee to reduce freshwater discharges from the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. A graphic with the statement is titled: “North/South Water Storage: A Side-by-Side Comparison.”

Florida Bay and the Everglades are not mentioned in the Water Management District’s release.

Tom Van Lent, chief scientist with the Everglades Foundation, harbors strong doubts about the proposal, which he said was never considered in Everglades restoration planning.

“Basically, they want to take all the fresh water needed by Florida Bay and the Everglades and bury it underground forever,” said Van Lent, a Key Largo resident. “It’s extremely inefficient, expensive and unsustainable.”

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