Water quality is among the many issues state legislators are expected to tackle during the legislative session starting Tuesday—and a former state water official said the state should take a look at funding innovative projects aimed at dealing with the state’s water woes this year.
One of the big problems water managers have been trying to solve is how to store excess water from Lake Okeechobee during the wet season.
Last year, water was released into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers—degrading water quality down the two estuaries.
Ernie Barnett used to be the interim director of the South Florida Water Management district and now works at an environmental consulting firm. He said the state should spend more on private/public water storage projects.
“You know it’s kind of an innovative way to store more water more quickly,” Barnett said. “It’s not the only solution to the problem, but I believe it is an integral tool the water managers need to have.”
Barnett said these projects are partnerships between the state and local land owners who live around Lake Okeechobee. The projects allow the state to store water on private lands.
Barnett said it’s faster and more versatile than relying strictly on reservoir projects like the planned C-43 reservoir, which he said could ultimately take 15 years to develop and could end up costing about 500 million dollars.
A spokesman for the South Florida Water Management district said his agency is hopeful the state Legislature will fund extra projects like this during this session.