lake okeechobee SB10

SB 10, which just passed its first Florida Senate committee, seeks to buy 60,000 acres of land near Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir. The bill’s intent is to reduce water releases from Lake O into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. This photo, looking east toward the lake, shows the Moore Haven Dam (right) and the Moore Haven Lock (center). Below is the Caloosahatchee River, which flows west into the Gulf of Mexico. / Sarah Vivian

Editor’s note: The regular session of the Florida Legislature begins March 7. In the meantime, Florida Food & Farm will post summaries and updates of bills that have been filed, in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, if they relate to agriculture, water or other appropriate topics.

SB 10, Water Resources, passes its first Florida Senate committee

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation on Feb. 7 unanimously passed, 6-0, Senate Bill 10, Water Resources. SB 10 would authorize the use of bond funds to buy 60,000 acres of land and to build a reservoir near Lake Okeechobee to reduce releases to the estuaries.

The regular session of the Florida Legislature begins March 7.

The bill’s provisions include “providing an exception to the requirement that bonds issued for acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests and resources be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund and distributed in a specified manner.”

The sponsor of SB 10 is Rob Bradley (R-District 5). An identical bill — HB 761, also titled Water Resources — was filed Feb. 10 in the House of Representatives by Thad Altman (R-District 52).

According to information supplied by the Florida Senate Majority Office (FSMO), “A reservoir of this size will hold 120 billion gallons of water — about as much water as was released from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary from January to May 2016.”

FSMO added that the bill, if it becomes law, would reduce the “damaging releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. The algae blooms created when these releases meet the salt water are having a significant impact on tourism, fishing and the economy that is not only a problem for the communities impacted, but for the entire state.”

The amount of funding required, according to the text of the bill, is “indeterminate.”

For more information, visit the Florida Legislature’s website,