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Florida Senate Panel Approves $160 Million Plan To Fix Water Woes

A Senate panel tasked with fixing some of Florida’s long-term water quality problems passed its first draft of recommendations on Tuesday.

The Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin’s plan for the upcoming legislative session sets aside $160 million for restoration and construction projects that would divert less water east and west of the lake.

Among the recommendations is a request to take the management of water releases away from the Army Corps of Engineers.

State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, is the chair of the panel. He said the Corps released too much water during this past rainy season, which devastated area waterways.

“In my view their stewardship of Lake Okeechobee and those discharges over the past decades, is an abject failure,” he said.

However, Army Corps officials have said too much pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover dike has been their biggest concern because it poses a public safety issue.

The Senate panel’s recommendations also include funding for reservoirs to store water from the lake.  State Sen. Lisbeth Benaquisto, R- Fort Myers, recommended the state allocate $15 million for a reservoir along the Caloosahatchee, now that Congress is close to setting aside its part of the money for it.

The plan also provides $90 million for the second phase of the Tamiami Trail bridging project, which should allow more water to flow south into the Everglades.