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.