Legislative Update on Senate Bill 2508: Environmental Resources


This week, Senate Bill 2508 passed the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee. I appreciate hearing from many Floridians on this issue and welcome the opportunity to clarify what this bill does for our state and correct misinformation. This issue is of paramount importance to me, and I would never support any legislation that would — in any way, shape or form — harm our environment or impair our citizens’ access to clean water.
In recent years, the Florida Legislature has invested millions in the restoration and protection of our water resources, specifically Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Any time the state invests in agencies, programs and projects, it details in statute how the funding should be spent to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used for its intended purpose.
Senate Bill 2508 does just that. It provides a framework for ensuring that the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) fulfills its statutory responsibilities of flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems, while implementing large scale ecosystem restoration projects. This bill increases accountability for the millions of dollars that Florida taxpayers have invested and continue to invest in environmental restoration. This bill also ensures that Florida maintains control of Florida’s resources.
Some claim that this legislation prioritizes water supply over environment and also permits harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, and that is false. Senate Bill 2508 does not permit more harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee. In fact, the federal government controls the operations of the lake, including when and how much water needs to be discharged from the lake. Senate Bill 2508 actually confirms current law which provides that the SFWMD must request the Army Corps of Engineers to implement projects designed to reduce high volume freshwater discharges from the lake.
The main thrust of the bill is how water should be allocated in times of drought. Senate Bill 2508 comprehensively addresses uncertainty when lake levels are low. In the event of a drought, this legislation aims to ensure water shortages are managed just as they are today in state law by holding the SFWMD accountable to certify that recommendations to the federal government are consistent with current state law, do not reduce the amount of water available for existing permitted users and does not prioritize one use over another.
Some claim funding to the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) Reservoir is cut. I assure you Senate Bill 2508 continues the funding for the massive water projects contained in Senate Bill 10 when it passed the legislature in 2017, including the EAA Reservoir. The projects included in that landmark legislation, and continued in Senate Bill 2508, include the EAA Reservoir, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the West Basin Storage Reservoir, and the Indian River Lagoon-South project. The Legislature has also appropriated funding for additional projects. The SFWMD operates and maintains all of these projects, and a vast majority of funding for these projects, more than $1.6 billion over five years, come from Florida state taxpayers. The projects continue under Senate Bill 2508 with greater accountability on SFWMD to fulfill its statutory responsibilities. This year’s budget (and confirmed with Senate Bill 2508) allocates more than $875 million for the following projects:
· Everglades Restoration (C-43 and EAA Reservoir) – $352,623,196
· Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project – $450,000,000
· Northern Everglades and Estuaries Program – $73,276,213
I am seriously concerned and disheartened about the misinterpretation of what Senate Bill 2508 does and I can understand why that is causing alarm. I spent hours reviewing Senate Bill 2508 and am comfortable it does not do what critics say it does; however, if in your reading of the bill you have questions or can point out particular provisions that are confusing, please let me know so that I can go to the bill sponsor for clarification. I want to get this right. It is critically important that we continue to restore and protect our environment while managing our state’s water resources. I hope the information provided clarifies the intent of the legislation and why it’s important to the future of our state.

Read Governor DeSantis’s Statement on Environmental Resources
On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis released a statement of administration policy regarding Senate Bill (SB) 2508, Environmental Resources:
“I have been a champion for Everglades restoration and oppose any measure that derails progress on reducing harmful discharges and sending more water to the Everglades. Moreover, I reject any attempt to deprioritize the EAA Reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee.
“Rather than advancing legislation seeking to affect a major change in policy, SB 2508 is being rammed through the budget process, short-circuiting public engagement and leaving affected agencies in the dark.”
You can view the full statement here.

Senate President Wilton Simpson Weighs in to Clarify Legislation for SB 2508
On Thursday, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 2508, which safeguards state taxpayer funds dedicated to clean water resources and protects state water rights from federal government intrusion.
“Floridians have invested billions of their hard earned dollars in environmental restoration and this Senate is going to safeguard that investment. I am never going to cede one inch of state authority over our water resources to Joe Biden’s federal government – the same administration that did not include one dollar of federal funding for the reservoir in their so-called infrastructure bill.
“Our Senate bill does not in any way reverse or hinder Everglades restoration and is entirely consistent with current policy. In fact, the bill protects existing state funding for the EAA Reservoir and cements into state law current successful water management practices that Joe Biden’s federal government is looking to change. The bill makes it clear that the South Florida Water Management District needs to advocate for our state water interests, under current law – not whatever the Biden Administration wants to do.
“SB 2508 does not change the goals of the EAA Reservoir, or go back on any commitment this state has made to the environment during my 10 years of service. The successful environmental projects Governor DeSantis has championed were actually started long ago with funding and policy approved by the Florida Legislature. I agree with Governor DeSantis’ commitment to our environment, and I too have long-championed these issues. I sponsored the 2013 Everglades Improvement and Management Act, which created a single comprehensive plan for achieving the restoration efforts envisioned under the Everglades Forever Act. As Senate Majority Leader in 2017, I helped draft and worked to pass the EAA Reservoir legislation, which expedited and provided dedicated funding for southern storage, while prioritizing other critical water projects around Lake Okeechobee. For special interests to suggest that under my leadership the Senate would go back on those commitments is not only ludicrous, it is deliberately dishonest political gamesmanship.
“Furthermore, no Senator has to check in with a state agency before filing a bill. I report to the people of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties, not appointed bureaucrats.”
You can view the full statement here.

Read Senate Bill 2508: Environmental Resources
You can read the legislation of SB 2508 in its entirety here.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.

Kathleen C. Passidomo
Senate Rules Chair
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:
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LaBelle, FL 33935
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