FCC Legislative Alert January 26, 2012

Everglades Funding

Seven million people living in South Florida depend on the Everglades for their drinking water. Water is vital to life, commerce and agriculture. The Everglades are visited by tourists from around the world for its many natural wonders. Florida is defined by its water resources, and its environment and economy depend on sound management of its fresh and salt-water resources. Please support the Governor's request for $40 million for Everglades restoration in the FY 12-13 state budget.

The Everglades needs your help.  State funding to continue the restoration of the Everglades rests in the State Legislature. Governor Scott has pledged his support for the Everglades and put $40 in his budget.  But now it is up to the legislature, and a few are talking about even more, although any funding is difficult this year. Please call or write members of the Senate Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations, express your interest and ask them to approve the generous and appropriate funding for Everglades restoration.  If you live in south Florida, this should be of extra interest to you. The subcommittee members include: Alan HaysLizbeth BenaquistoOscar BraynonLarcenia BullardMiguel Diaz de la PortillaAudrey GibsonDennis Jones, and Jack Latvala. Also contact Senator J.D. Alexander

These funds will be used to help complete projects that provide a clean water supply for south Florida.  This funding will show the State’s commitment to moving forward with Everglades restoration and assist in strengthening the partnership with the federal government to complete restoration projects and secure Florida’s water supply.

The Everglades is unique – a magnificent mosaic of intricately connected ecosystems.  Because it is a natural treasure, the federal government has committed to pay half the costs of restoration.  No other state has such a good deal.  Congress appropriated $143 million for Everglades restoration in its FY 2012 budget. 

The State Legislature unanimously adopted the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000; the plan is a state/federal partnership.  The plan is designed to increase storage of water during south Florida’s rainy season for use during the dry season and to capture and use 1.7 billion gallons of water a day that is needlessly drained to sea.  The plan guarantees that existing flood protection will be maintained, as well as existing water supplies for urban, agricultural, and commercial uses.

Because of the size, scope, and comprehensiveness of the plan, it will cost $11 billion and span a 30- year implementation period.  After all, it took 30 years to drain the Everglades.  Former Governor and then Senator Bob Graham compared it to heart surgery – “you don’t want to start and not complete it.”

Republican Governor Jeb Bush designated the South Florida Water Management District to be the implementing agency; at that time he committed the State to spending $100 million annually and District taxpayers to $100 million annually. Times have changed and the budget has been reduced restoration projects. The District’s proposed budget this year contains more than $52 million for restoration projects. Last year’s Legislature cut the District’s budget by 48 percent, so it more important than ever for the State to pay its share. 

Significant progress has been made and you can read about it here.

Dramatic reductions in funding and year- to- year shifts in direction are the greatest threats to Everglades restoration and management of Florida’s water resources.  Water issues are extremely complex and require deliberate and long-term planning based on facts.  These issues are serious, and the Legislature should take them seriously. 

We have previously called to your attention in urgent alerts regarding SB 1362 and HB 639.  Please see previous alerts for these as they and SB1184, which we have not completely reviewed, would adversely affect Everglades Restoration as well.

- Vicki Tschinkel, Estus Whitfield, and Martha Musgrove