| Big Cypress Basin Management Changes
|Sen. Rodrigues (R-Estero) introduced the Big Cypress Basin Bill, SB 406, while the House companion, HB 209, was filed by Rep. Botana (R-Bonita Springs). The bill revises the membership of the Big Cypress Basin governing board; requires the South Florida Water Management District to revise the boundaries of the Big Cypress Basin; and requires the South Florida Water Management District to redirect distribution of basin ad valorem taxes collected within the Big Cypress Basin to be used only for flood control projects and maintenance within the counties in which they were collected.
The bill will reduce ad valorem collections available to the District and narrows the statutory authorized usage of ad valorem funds. This bill has the effect of cutting $8.9 million in annual recurring ad valorem funding necessary for current and future operation and maintenance of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) Project flood control system; operation and maintenance of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) features, Northern Everglades features, Restoration Strategies features; and administration of the Big Cypress Basin.
While the bills have been working their way through committees, South Florida Water Management District governing board members as well as Collier County Commissioners have expressed concern that the proposed change may cause challenges with Everglades funding because south Lee County district tax dollars now go to the district at-large, not the Big Cypress Basin.
Also concerning is that this sets a precedent that would lead to other areas that seek a specialty-taxing district. Everglades restoration projects have far-reaching benefits, rehydrating historic wetlands, reducing damaging impacts to our coastal estuaries and reducing the effects of climate change. The fiscal analysis on the effects of the bill raises questions about the impacts of a long-term boundary change. HB 209 passed its last committee of reference, State Affairs on Monday with 19 yeas and 4 nays. SB 406 has two committees remaining.