Gov. Scott voicing support for Lake Okeechobee changes

Posted at 8:40 AM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 09:10:20-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Governor Rick Scott is now voicing support for a reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee releases.

He's also pushing lawmakers to set aside $200 million to help the federal government repair the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Scott says he expects the federal government to reimburse Florida for pitching in.

The governor adds repairs would allow the lake to hold more water, therefore reducing releases in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery that Governor Scott gave Monday in Tallahassee:

Governor Rick Scott said, “It’s important to me that as the Legislature has progressed on President Negron’s priority Lake Okeechobee bill, I give an update on how I believe we should be funding our environment and conversations I have been having with the Trump Administration.

“Florida is known for our beautiful waterways and pristine coastline. We have to be very aggressive in protecting our environment and every year I have been in office, I have fought to provide resources to protect our lands and waterways. Unfortunately, due to heavy amounts of rain, we had the Lost Summer in 2013 and last year we had the algal blooms in South Florida where I had to declare a state of emergency.

“Our environment and the local economy in South Florida were hit hard. Businesses were hurt, our tourism industry was impacted and we have to continue to do all we can to make sure we keep enhancing the quality of our water. That’s why today I am announcing two items:

“First, I am calling on both the House and the Senate to allocate $200 million in state funds to help fix the federal Herbert Hoover Dike. They are in the middle of their budget negotiations and I urge them to add this in immediately. If we can start working to fix the Dike, we can help solve a lot of the water issues we have seen with Lake Okeechobee. Repairing the Dike is key to enhancing the water quality in South Florida and I am going to be very aggressive at doing whatever we can to protect our environment.

“I have spoken to the Trump Administration about the importance of fixing the federal Dike and I know they are very focused on investing in our environment and infrastructure. As you know, we had a major win from the Trump Administration last week with their commitment of $1.5 billion in LIP funding. This was nearly a billion more than the Obama Administration gave us. With this additional funding, we now have other funds available to spend on key items in our state, like our environment. And most importantly, we now have a federal government that is our partner and actually focused on working with Florida. My goal is for the Dike to be completely repaired by 2022, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Trump Administration to complete this, which would substantially reduce future discharges.

“Second, the quality of our water is one of the biggest issues facing our state and President Negron has been very focused on getting a bill done to help Lake Okeechobee. I have continued to review the legislation and watch it go through the process this session. And today, I met with many Senators on this bill to let them know my thoughts on it. There is a lot about the bill I like, and I know it is still going through the process. But ultimately, I hope the legislature sends me a great bill that addresses the Lake Okeechobee problem and benefits our environment and takes into consideration the agriculture community.

“Specifically, I support storage south of the lake in the A2 Reservoir which utilizes state-owned land and does not take people’s private land. This is a big step toward protecting our pristine environment. This additional storage, in conjunction with our currently planned projects around the Lake, will help reduce harmful discharges to the estuaries in South Florida. It’s very important to me that while we fund items in this bill, dollars are not taken away from our existing restoration plan, including projects like C43 and C44. Also, it is important to me that whatever is passed does not impact any person’s job. We have dedicated record funding toward Everglades restoration and I am confident we have the funds available to get these projects done without taking on more debt.

“I am a businessman who came into government to get things done for Florida families. Protecting our environment isn’t a partisan issue. We have to aggressively fight to protect it. I think about my grandsons who love being outdoors and I want to make sure we leave our future generations a pristine environment.”