Bill gives annual funds to restore Everglades

Posted at 5:42 PM, May 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 18:32:17-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Governor Rick Scott signed a bill Tuesday that will dedicate approximately $200 million per year to restore the Everglades. Voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 to set aside money for land conservation, but some complained that the money wasn't being spent as intended.

The funding will go towards getting water that's currently being pumped into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers moved south to the Everglades, where it flowed naturally before the land was drained to grow crops like sugar cane.

"We've got to continue to move water south," Scott said at the signing ceremony at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Immokalee. "We've got to be able to store more water, and we do need the federal government to do their part. They've not funded in the manner they've committed to fund."

Scott did acknowledge that Congressman Curt Clawson has fought hard to get federal dollars to move the runoff from Okeechobee south to the Everglades.

Jon Steverson of the Department of Environmental Protection said that the projects that  need the money are the building of reservoirs near Lake O, as well as bridges on highways that cross the Everglades so that water can flow under them.

"We've seen a dedication to projects, and actually getting those done," Steverson said. "Instead of more studies, more discussion, we're actually getting things built."

Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida called the dedicated funding helpful.

"(It) still falls short of the historical funding we used to receive annually," Hecker wrote in a message to Fox 4. "It will need to be added to, in order to keep up timely progress on Everglades restoration."

The Legacy Florida bill will also commit $50 million a year for springs restoration, plus $5 million to restore Lake Apopka in Orange County.