Governor Scott Signs Legacy Bill at FAU Pine Jog Center

govandrHost Rachel Leigh was at FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center and caught up with some of the attendees to discuss this very important piece of legislation.

R. Mike Brown | 6/1/2016 – Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg met at the FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center for a signing ceremony dubbed “Florida Legacy” bill in West Palm Beach.

The bill will steer millions of dollars annually toward maintaining the state’s troubled environmental treasures. The legislation (HB 989) dedicates as much as $200 million each year to Everglades restoration, $50 million to freshwater springs across the state, and $5 million to Lake Apopka. The waterways have been damaged and continue to be threatened by development and neighboring farm interests.

“It was great to host the governor and other dignitaries here,” said Ray Coleman, executive director of the FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center. “We’ve worked on projects with the Everglades Foundation and we’re looking forward to being part of the restoration of this national treasure.”

The governor Tuesday stopped short of raising the priority of buying more land to build another reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee saying he prefers to focus on finishing other long-stalled Everglades restoration projects.

“We do have a plan,” Scott said. “Are we where we want to be? No. But we are making progress.”

HB 989 creates an annual dedicated source of funding to protect Florida’s environment. The dedicated funding includes:

• Up to $200 million for Everglades restoration; • Up to $50 million for Florida springs; and • $5 million for Lake Apopka.

Under Governor Scott’s leadership, an historic $880 million water quality plan was created to protect the Everglades and a record $135 million has been provided for springs restoration. The Legacy Florida bill will take effect on July 1, 2016. Governor Scott will hold ceremonial bill signings in the coming weeks across the state.

EvergladesGovernor Scott said, “I want to thank the Florida Legislature for fulfilling the promise I made to create a dedicated source of funding to restore the Florida Everglades. Florida is known across the world for our pristine ecosystem and waterways, supporting our economy and quality of life. Over the last five years, we have invested more than $688 million for Everglades restoration. This legislation will continue our commitment to protecting Florida’s environment so future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer. I applaud Senator Negron and Representative Harrell for championing water issues and their work on this legislation.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson said, “Governor Scott’s signature of the Legacy Florida bill proves his commitment to the protection of Florida’s water and natural resources, which are vital to our economy and way of life. I applaud the Florida Legislature for the passage of this bill. The dedicated funding provided in this legislation will allow us to focus on projects that will greatly benefit our natural resources, including Everglades restoration and springs protection.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “I want to thank all who worked on this important legislation to ensure Florida’s waters are protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Florida families and businesses rely on the quality of our water, and it is important that we invest in their future quality of life. Thank you Governor Scott for signing this legislation today.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “I am proud to join Governor Scott and Florida Legislators and applaud the passage of Legacy Florida. As a seventh-generation Floridian, I want to ensure that my children and grandchildren can enjoy Florida’s beautiful waters and coasts. The Legacy Florida program will allow us provide clean water to Florida’s growing population and will aide us in completing the decades-long restoration of the River of Grass.”

Senate President-Designate Joe Negron said, “The passage of Legacy Florida is an historic achievement in Florida and will bring much needed relief to communities effected by water releases in Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie. I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 989 into law today and also recognize fellow members of the Legislature for their joined efforts on this important legislation.”

Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto said, “I was extremely proud to be the first co-sponsor of the Legacy Florida bill which will ensure dedicated funding for projects that will reduce freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee. I’d like to thank Governor Scott for signing the bill into law today and continuing our shared commitment to our estuary. This is a vital step in taking care of our state’s most valued resources.”

Representative Gayle Harrell said, “By passing this legislation to establish the Legacy Florida initiative, the House is ensuring we have a dedicated and reliable funding source to restore the Florida Everglades, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and end the releases from Lake Okeechobee. Legacy Florida will enable us to preserve these natural treasures for future generations.

Representative Matt Caldwell said, “The restoration of Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, and the Everglades is a major concern for all of Southwest Florida. With the passage of Legacy Florida, we are taking steps to solve those concerns by creating a dedicated funding stream with the sole purpose of protecting the health of the Everglades.”

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, said, “The Everglades Foundation applauds Governor Scott for supporting this important legislation that will dedicate funding to Everglades restoration, and especially the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, to help move projects to completion. The Everglades is an economic engine for this state and a sound investment. Restoration projects create jobs and protect the water supply for one in three Floridians.”

Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, said, “On behalf of Audubon Florida, I am proud to join Governor Scott in supporting Legacy Florida and its commitment of Amendment 1 funds to ecosystem restoration and springs recovery. Dedicated funding will ensure steady progress on the projects needed to provide clean water to the Everglades and estuaries. Floridians should welcome this major step forward toward implementing plans to meet water quality goals and delivering freshwater flows.”