CREATED Aug. 28, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Governor visited the Fort Myers downtown waterfront to announce a new project to reduce the amount of freshwater coming out of Lake Okeechobee.
Tamiami Trail, built on a berm, has inadvertently turned part of the Everglades into a reservoir.
The Governor's new project will open that up... letting more water from Lake Okeechobee flow south.
Lake Okeechobee has about a million square feet of water that needs to be stored annually, this new flow-way will take only one-tenth of that excess water.
While several local politicians applauded the governor for his efforts, not everyone is convinced the changes will improve our water quality.
Jennifer Hecker is with the conservancy of Southwest Florida.
She says "its literally a drop in the bucket for what we really need."
She considers the governor's actions too little and too late.
Hecker added that "he has funded everglades restoration about half of what was historically funded under previous republican administrations ."
Representatives from the florida coastal and ocean coalition also expressed their frustration.
Ray Judah said "it in no way will address the excessive run off that is impacting the estuaries on the east and west coast of florida."
But the Governor says its not all his fault.
If he had more money, he says could do more: the "state taxpayer has spent 2.5 billion dollars on water issues, the federal government is supposed to match us, they agreed to match us one for one. and they are 1.6 billion dollars behind."
But its the Governor's priority list that frustrates the coalition of scientists and environmentalist.
Most seem to agree that land South of Lake "O", which is operated by US Sugar, is critical for storing and cleaning water.
But there aren't any elected officials leading the charge to buy the property from US Sugar.
Jennifer Hecker said "they are heavy political contributors to both parties and to all the political candidates so its very difficult to find people who are going to do anything adverse to their interests."
The state has until October to exercise its option to buy 187,000 acres from US Sugar to store excess water from Lake "O" -- at a price of one billion dollars.
That would eliminate the need to spend another 15 billion dollars for the Everglades Restoration Project.