Press Release May 3, 2017

Florida Legislature Moves to Restore Everglades National Park, Florida’s Estuaries

Senate Bill 10 will improve health of larger ecosystem impacted by polluted waters.

UPDATE: on May 9, 2017 Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB10 into law. The law approves a reservoir water storage plan that will help store and send clean, fresh water south to Everglades National Park.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The Florida Legislature last night passed legislation to help restore the health of Everglades and Biscayne national parks. The bill, Senate Bill 10, will help improve the health of the larger ecosystem that has seen decades of polluted water releases from Lake Okeechobee by accelerating the timeline for storing and pumping fresh water into the parks and their estuaries.

Below is a statement by Cara Capp, Everglades Restoration Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association:

“The Florida Legislature’s passage of this bill is a win for Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Our elected leaders took action to send clean water south—water that is desperately needed to rehydrate the Greater Everglades ecosystem including Everglades and Biscayne national parks.

“This plan is not a new one. The publicly-owned parcels that will be used to store and treat water from Lake Okeechobee were purchased nearly two decades ago specifically to provide water for downstream Everglades National Park. Now is the time for action—the Everglades can’t wait.

“Lawmakers like Senate President Joe Negron and Senator Rob Bradley should be commended for their leadership and hard work getting this bill through the legislature. Governor Scott should sign this bill quickly and direct his water management district to expedite implementation so we can start getting the water right for America’s Everglades and Florida’s estuaries.”

Background

Everglades National Park is a world renowned and globally unique ecosystem, a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance. The Everglades provides drinking water to 8 million people. Clean water is the lifeblood of South Florida’s environment, public health and economy. However, 2016 marked one of the worst years for the Everglades and Florida’s estuaries. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers were inundated with polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee while Florida Bay remains in desperate need of more freshwater flow.

Sending clean water south is the solution for these three imperiled ecosystems. Since receiving congressional approval in 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) has envisioned water storage and treatment south of Lake Okeechobee. Water must be routed away from the coastal estuaries, treated to acceptable levels and redirected south. By restoring some of the historic “River of Grass” footprint, it is possible to benefit both the southern Everglades and the northern estuaries.

Planning of the water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is set to begin in 2021. Instead, Senate Bill 10 will speed up that timeframe to ensure that Florida’s struggling communities will not have to wait four more years to begin planning the long-term solution that is desperate needed.

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About National Parks Conservation Association

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.