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.
David Simmons (R-District 9) has filed Senate Bill 816: Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes. The bill’s provisions include “directing the South Florida Water Management District to take control of discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee and take a leadership role in the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike … and requiring the district to set a goal of increasing lake storage up to a specified amount to reduce certain discharges.”
Part of the 14-page bill addresses the jurisdictional issue governing control of the water level in Lake Okeechobee: “while the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District work jointly to operate and maintain the C&SF (Central and Southern Florida Project), the Corps maintains its decisionmaking responsibility for the C&SF and operates and maintains the levees, channels, locks, and control works of the St. Lucie Canal, Lake Okeechobee, and Caloosahatchee River and the main spillways of C&SF’s water conservation areas only under the partnership terms with the state …”
“the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 ruled that ‘[d]espite the Corps exercising control over these systems, either directly or by issuing regulations to the SFWMD, the project is a function of state authorization. The federal government’s initiation of the project was premised on the State of Florida’s permission; all title to the easements and rights-of-way upon which the C&SF Project structures operate belong to the State of Florida; and the United States Army Corps of Engineers administers the C&SF Project pursuant to an agreement between the United States and the State of Florida,’ … the State of Florida, therefore, has the ultimate right of decisionmaking regarding this partnership between the United States and the state.”
U.S. Dept. of Interior: Army Corps has authority over Lake O
But according to evergladesrestoration.gov, a website hosted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the ultimate jurisdiction over Lake Okeechobee and its waterways: “The Corps operates and maintains project works on the St. Lucie Canal; Caloosahatchee River; Lake Okeechobee levees, channels, locks, and major spillways; and the main outlets for WCAs (Water Catchment Areas) 1, 2A, and 3A.
“The South Florida Water Management District operates the remainder of the project in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Corps.”
For more information, visit the Florida Legislature’s website, www.leg.state.fl.us.