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Greens: More Cash For 'River Of Grass'

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Everglades activists are making a last-ditch effort to convince lawmakers to spend more money restoring the fabled River of Grass.  The push comes less than a week before a special session.

Two weeks ago, South Florida water managers voted not to buy 46,000 acres of agricultural land that’s crucial to diverting runoff from Lake Okeechobee to the parched Everglades.

But Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper says he’s working with Senate Republicans on an alternative.

“Our top objectives for the legislative session is getting our legislators to allocate funding for Everglades restoration projects, specifically, funds that can be used to buy land south of lake Okeechobee to construct a reservoir.”

The South Florida Water Management District decision was a blow to activists who helped pass Amendment 1, the mandate that sets aside $694 million for environmental programs.

Everglades Foundation founder Mary Barley blames the board’s decision on pressure from industry lobbyists and lawmakers who oppose the deal.

“It was a vote intended to give the governor, the Legislature and Big Sugar political cover. The district ignored the will of the voters and still refuses to implement the 2000 long-term comprehensive Everglades restoration plan.”

The greens are swimming upstream. There’s still no agreement between the House and Senate over health care policy, and that stands in the way of a budget deal.

In a web video, the trust blasts the industry for pouring nearly eleven million dollars into legislative campaigns in 2014.  It urges the public to put pressure on Governor Rick Scott and lawmakers.

“Tell them not to let Big Sugar go back on their word. Tell them no matter how much money they’ve been given, they still need to do the right thing. Right now, the Everglades needs you.”

For now, the House and Senate are miles apart on how much to spend on land acquisition. The Senate proposes $22 million and the House, $8 million

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.