Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration is poised to get a massive funding boost from state lawmakers this year.
State lawmakers recently released their proposed budgets for projects aimed at restoring the River of Grass and polluted estuaries around Lake Okeechobee this year.
The House set aside $125 million for clean-up—which is considerably more than last year’s budget. However, the state Senate is proposing to double it. Lawmakers there are recommending $157 million.
Eric Draper with Florida’s Audubon Society said last summer’s water releases have inspired lawmakers to prioritize money for environmental restoration.
“The tragedy of the summer with all of that water being pumped out of Lake Okeechobee and discharged into the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie inlet, and impacting the Indian River Lagoon, I think woke up the political leaders in Tallahassee and throughout the state of Florida and they said, ‘we gotta do something,’” he said. “It’s a complicated problem but the political constituency is now there.”
Draper said pleas from residents living near the polluted water also spurred action.
The proposed budgets would fund projects such as restoring the Kissimmee River, completing the reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River, bridging parts of the Tamiami Trail and pollution treatment, among other things.
Draper said he hopes restoration remains a priority for lawmakers in the future.