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Senators divided over using state park money to control Lake O discharges

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Florida senators are divided over a proposal taking money out of the state park system for a pilot program to help reroute discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries.

LobbyTools reports on a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, where Stuart Republican Joe Negron proposed amending the Senate budget to include $750,000 in recurring funds and $6.75 million in nonrecurring funds for the South Florida Water Management District. The money would go to purchase additional land for the Caulkins Water Farming pilot project.

The project helps stem flooding of South Florida farms, and control harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Negron’s amendment was opposed by Umatilla Republican Alan Hays, chairman of the appropriations committee tasked with environmental issues. According to LobbyTools, Hays’ objection to using parks money for the project was because there are already several bills working through the Legislature that seek to increase park attendance.

“I just don’t like this amendment because you overpower the state parks,” Hays said.

Hays suggested a compromise to find funding from elsewhere, like $50 million his committee set aside for water projects. Negron countered by saying, “We need an amendment today” because  there’s a possibility the project would be vetoed if added too late in the process.

Despite Hays’ objections, the committee approved the amendment, as Negron promised to work with Hays to modify the proposal once the appropriations bill comes up for a full Senate vote.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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