Controversial legislation that competes for Everglades water passes Florida Senate
A Florida Senate bill that critics claim is being fast-tracked through the Legislature to ensure big agriculture receives all of the water it already uses from Lake Okeechobee, rather than follow longstanding plans to send more of it into the Everglades, passed the chamber by a 37-2 vote late this week.
Supporters say Senate Bill 2508 will keep watch over the South Florida Water Management District to make sure it doesn’t reduce the amount of water available for “existing legal users,” the biggest of whom are Big Sugar and other agricultural interests south of Lake O.
Critics say it is the latest maneuver in the lengthy fight to decide who reaps the benefits of cleaner water flowing from Lake Okeechobee: big agricultural interests, or the environment itself, as well as South Florida residents and visitors.
Bill sponsor and Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton says his bill is all about “accountability” for the SFWMD, since it is the agency that oversees much of the Lake Okeechobee watershed.
Environmental groups such as Friends of the Everglades issued statements against the measure despite some concessions Albritton made in an amendment filed after the original bill.
“It’s a toxic stew of bad proposals that undermine Florida’s environmental protections and protect powerful industries — most notably Big Sugar,” the group stated. “The amended version remains very concerning.”
Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health.