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~Calls on Federal Government to Fund $1.6 Billion in Owed Projects~

MARTIN COUNTY – Today, Governor Rick Scott, along with several members of the Florida Legislature, announced a $40 million commitment to speed up completion of the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project, which will cut the project time in half. The project will clean diverted water from Lake Okeechobee and storm water runoff year-round. The Governor also called on the federal government to meet its obligations in maintaining the federally operated Lake Okeechobee dike system and fulfilling its cost-share obligations to the State of Florida for environmental projects. To view the Governor’s letter to the Army Corps of Engineers click HERE.

Governor Scott said, “We’re here because the Corps is not maintaining the Lake Okeechobee dike system and they’re not fulfilling their financial commitment to Florida. Florida families are paying the price for federal inaction.  Despite federal inaction, we are speeding up solutions because Florida’s families and the environment can’t wait any longer.

“We need federal action immediately, but Florida will not stand by and do nothing while we wait on Washington. Today, I’m announcing a $40 million commitment to fully fund the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project, which will divert harmful water away from the St. Lucie River and clean it. I will include this $40 million in my upcoming fiscal year budget request. This $40 million investment in the C-44 STA project will reduce the time needed to complete this project by half.”

The Governor made the announcement during a tour of the S-80 Control Structure where he was joined by Senator Joe Negron, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, Representative Gayle Harrell, Representative MaryLynn Magar, Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Alan Dodd, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Ernie Barnett of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and a number of local elected officials.

Senator Joe Negron said “I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his commitment to families in the region. Each and every step we take in cleaning polluted water and keeping it out of our estuaries is another positive step forward for families that rely on our area’s natural treasurers for their livelihoods. I look forward to working with the Governor as well as my colleagues in the Legislature to deliver on this $40 million commitment.”

During the tour, Governor Scott called on the federal government to get engaged and honor their responsibilities to South Florida. While the State of Florida has invested $2.5 billion in South Florida environmental projects, the federal government, which agreed to a 50-50 cost share, is approximately $1.6 billion behind in funding for projects. Moreover, Congress has yet to authorize critical projects for construction that would help mitigate damage to the region, including the C-43 reservoir project which would store water on the Westside of Lake Okeechobee until it could be incrementally released back into the Caloosahatchee River and Florida’s estuaries to avoid additional impacts.  

Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto said, “I want to applaud Governor Scott for his leadership in fighting for families in the area. This $40 million commitment is a good step forward toward improving the St. Lucie River and a model I hope we can replicate as we work to tackle these same ecological impacts to help restore the Caloosahatchee.”

Representative Gayle Harrell said, “The Governor’s $40 million commitment to this storm water treatment project means we’ll end delays and get this project completed on a much more reasonable timeline. This endeavor requires the focus and investments of our leaders, and the Governor has demonstrated his commitment to families in the region with these dollars. Had we waited for the federal government to make good on their promises, this project may have taken a lot longer.”

Representative MaryLynn Magar said, “I want to thank Governor Scott and the South Florida Water Management District for their efforts in restoring area waterways. The state has done a good job in making important investments in projects that mitigate damage to our waterways, but because we lack of a good federal partner, we have to do that much more in revitalizing our waterways. The Governor’s $40 million commitment to the storm water treatment area project is an example of what’s right in government.”    

Representative Debbie Mayfield said, “Too many families are feeling the effects of the Corps’ decision to dump bad water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers – and I applaud the Governor for taking positive steps to support the region. This $40 million in funding will be used to clean water year-round, which is critical to restoring the region’s environment and supporting the economy.”

Additional Measures

Governor Scott said, “We are also taking action right now. The South Florida Water Management District took prudent measures by entering into emergency contracts to store water on state and private lands to reduce impacts on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.”

Just last week, the SFWMD Board voted to move forward with a suite of projects outlined in the Central Everglades Planning Project to help provide a lasting solution to this problem. Now the State is waiting on the Corps and Congress to provide final approval. Within a month the SFWMD will enter into the first contract for the design of the C-44 STA.

Additionally, this year Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 7065, which provides $32 million, annually, in state funding for the Governor’s $880 million long-term Everglades water quality restoration plan. The $32 million annual appropriation is an historic step forward in restoring America’s Everglades by improving water quality and water flow. This set of projects will ensure that water flowing into the Everglades meets the state’s stringent water quality standards.