Senate Bill 10 Amendment Proposal Brings Improvements, but Concern Remains

Abigail Taylor Legislative, Top Posts

Senate President Joe Negron and other senate leaders proposed some changes to Senate Bill 10 on April 4. After receiving some pushback on the bill, Negron has proposed amendments to make the bill more sufficient for those who would be negatively affected by the original proposal.

Senate Bill 10 was introduced by Negron in August 2016 as a way to prevent toxic algae blooms in estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee. The bill proposed the purchase of 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee that would store and clean water, as well as reduce toxic releases into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.

The bill received some negative feedback because the 60,000 acres of land to be purchased is made up of mostly sugarcane farmland. The passing of the original bill would cause detrimental effects to the farmers who work and reside on that land.

However, the new amendment may ease the impact on sugar farmers in that area. One major detail of the amendment is reducing the cost of the project from $2.4 billion to $1.5 billion, with half of the cost being covered by the federal government. Moreover, instead of initially searching for farmers willing to sell their land within the 60,000-acre region, the bill would first use the land already owned by the state.

Judy Sanchez, senior director for corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, says the amendment improves the bill, but it still causes concern. “This amendment makes significant progress and demonstrates that the Florida Senate has begun taking seriously the concerns of residents from communities south of Lake Okeechobee. The decision to no longer take 60,000 to 153,000 acres of farmland out of production is a positive step forward. While the amendment improves the bill, there are significant concerns related to the arbitrary timelines for the southern storage reservoir, which appear to conflict with the current timing of the federally authorized projects in the Integrated Delivery Schedule. We agree with Senator Negron that science should continue to guide this bill, and we look forward to providing additional input on developing science-based solutions that actually will reduce the harmful discharges and build real solutions that work for all of our communities,” she said in a statement on April 4.

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Abigail Taylor

Multi-media journalist for AgNet Media

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