Water-Related News

Senate Okays Lake Okeechobee reservoir bill; what about House?

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

With a 36-3 vote, the Senate sent the bill to the House, where some members have criticized Republican Senate President Joe Negron's plan to store 100 billion to 120 billion gallons of water that gets discharged when the lake level is too high. The reservoir would send that much-needed water into the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The Senate green light came after almost three hours of lawmakers from both parties questioning, debating and trying to change the bill. In the end, most agreed changes to the original bill made it more palatable and gave them a good starting point to negotiate with the House, which hasn't scheduled a vote. Negron said his talks with House leadership have made him optimistic he will get his proposal approved.

State Rep. Matthew Caldwell, a Fort Myers Republican who is one of the leading House lawmakers on water policy, said the changes give the two legislative chambers a starting point to negotiate. Yet the fact Negron, R-Stuart, wants to borrow money after the second year of the project is a "non-starter," Caldwell said.