Against the backdrop of a massive new reservoir that will help clean water before it flows into the Everglades, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday put in a plug for his $1.7 billion environmental budget request — as well as his record on Everglades restoration as he heads into an expected U.S. Senate bid.
Scott joined South Florida Water Management District officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony near 20-Mile Bend, where a 15 billion-gallon “flow equalization basin” opened this year near the edge of the Everglades. The reservoir and pumping station allow water managers to regulate the flow of stormwater into man-made wetlands that filter out pollutants — such as phosphorous from nearby sugar cane fields — before the water flows into the Everglades.
“This is one of the key projects for Everglades restoration going forward,” SFWMD Executive Director Ernie Marks said at a brief ceremony.
Scott used the occasion to promote his request, in his eighth and final budget as governor, for $1.7 billion in environmental spending in 2018-19, an increase of about $22o million over current levels. Scott’s budget plan calls for $355.8 million in Everglades-related spending, a 10.6 percent increase over this year’s $321.6 million.
The governor urged Floridians to “call their legislators and make sure they support all the funding for the environment we have.”
Republican Scott, who is expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year, also used the project to tout his Everglades record over two terms as governor.
“Everglades restoration has been clearly a priority over the last seven years…We have made historic progress with environmental restoration projects over the last seven years but we’ve got a lot left to do,” Scott said.
Everglades Foundation CEO Erik Eikenberg attended Monday’s event and said Scott’s leadership has brought “tremendous progress” on improving water quality in the Everglades.
Marks said the new project is especially satisfying to those who have worked for years on Everglades projects.
“I’ve been doing this for 14 years now, working on Everglades restoration,” Marks said. “And it’s really days like this that mean something to the folks that put their time, effort, blood, sweat and tears into the work that we know that we need to do to save one of these great national treasures.”