| Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Hears Water and M-CORES Issues|
|Aquifer Storage and Recovery|
On Monday, at the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the focus was on presentations by David Pyne and Mark McNeal on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR), as well as by Drew Bartlett, Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), on the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Science Plan.
David Pyne, president of ASR Systems in Gainesville and a member of the Florida Engineering Society, said ASR is “storing water at times when water is available and recovering the water when it is needed.” ASR does not solve water management challenges because storage and attenuation features must be able to store or move large amounts of water very quickly to be effective. The inflow rate per ASR is simply too slow
The take home message: ASR wells are a tool in the tool-box but should not be a substitute for dispersed storage projects.
Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
Senator Brodeur (R-Sanford) presented SB 94, which advances the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) and requires the SFWMD, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite implementation of the project. The LOWRP – part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan – provides water storage north of Lake Okeechobee. The LOWRP is a controversial project, and while its intended goal of water treatment and storage north of the lake is a critical need, the project falls short of what is needed to protect the lake and reduce harmful discharges to the estuaries east and west.
The SFWMD estimates we need about 900,000 acre-feet of storage north of Lake O to smooth out the high water events. However, on a positive note, the bill allows for moving forward with an amended LOWRP should the Army Corps choose to update the project. The bill passed the committee with a unanimous vote.
SB 100 (Sen. Harrell, R-Stuart) passed (5 Yeas and 3 Nays) the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, March 3. The bill repeals M-CORES legislation and dramatically pares back the environmentally disastrous proposal to build 330 miles of new turnpikes through Florida's most rural areas. Instead, it proposes completing the Suncoast Parkway to US 19 in Citrus County, then relying on gradual improvements to US 19 to link to Interstate 10 in North Florida. The bill also authorizes a new study of an extension of the Florida Turnpike from Wildwood to a yet-to-be determined destination, and requires US 19 to connect to I-10 in Madison County, which would result in about 30 miles of road impacts in very rural areas.
Audubon advocates for legislative direction that the strong protections the Task Forces required for conservation lands, wildlife, rural lands be retained (and should apply to any future proposals for these roads). Such action would parallel 2004, when the Legislature passed the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act and specifically referenced the Task Force reports, enshrining those protections in statute.