KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday pledged $130 million to Everglades restoration in the upcoming budget.
Scott said during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet that the 2014 budget request would be used to help restore the Kissimmee River north of the Everglades. It also will assist in the reconstruction of a section of the Tamiani Trail so it allows water to flow south into the Everglades and speed up construction of a storm water treatment plant for Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Referring to the Everglades, Scott called it "a key to a vibrant economy, coast to coast."
The budget request for the Everglades was a $60 million increase over last year.
"If you're a fan of the Everglades, the governor's announcement today should blow your socks off," said Herschel Vinyard, the governor-appointed Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Scott's announcement comes nine months after the Florida Legislature approved an $880 million plan for funding Everglades restoration projects. Scott negotiated the plan with the federal government.
Efforts to protect water quality for the Everglades has "turned a corner," said Stan Meiburg, acting regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency's for the southeast region. But Meiburg said, "It's going to take time and it's going to be expensive."
The members of the Florida Cabinet are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session have a host of other water issues to consider besides the Everglades. Scott on Tuesday announced he would ask for $55 million to restore and protect Florida's springs and central Florida lawmakers have pledged to fund efforts to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.
"Water funding is going to be a big, emerging issue," said Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy for The Nature Conservancy in Tallahassee.
At the first Cabinet meeting of the year, Scott and the Cabinet members handed out awards to business leaders and educators, and pledged their support for Kissimmee's efforts to land the National Finals Rodeo.