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Palm Beach Officials Urge Passage of SB 2508

West Palm Beach Mayor James and other county and regional officials held a news conference Monday to declare their support for Senate Bill 2508.
Photo courtesy City of West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach Mayor James and other county and regional officials declare their support for Senate Bill 2508.

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James has declared his strong support for Florida Senate Bill 2508 which he says is needed to protect the region supply of drinking water.

"This legislation aims to help secure an ample supply of safe drinking water for the nearly 130,0000 water customers who either reside in the city or are served by the city," said the Mayor during a news conference Monday. He was surrounded by other city and Palm Beach County officials. "I’m calling on Senators, House members, and our Governor, we want you to implement Senate Bill 2508 to protect our most precious resource, our people," said James. "We as constituents, consumers, and leaders, must lend our support to the basic need of ensuring the water supply for our daily lives and economies."

In response Friends of the Everglades Policy Director Gill Smart said "we certainly understand their position about water supply in those communities, but we continue to maintain that 2508 is ultimately destined to result in more discharges, more algae to the estuary, both the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee."

Smart acknowledges that amendments to the original bill removed "much of the worst," but he maintains the measure still contains provisions that would lock in the current favorable water supply promises to agricultural interests like the sugar industry. He said the bill is "designed" to "keep the Lake higher than is necessary by continuing overly generous water promises" to those agricultural interests.

Bill 2508 also makes makes promises to communities like West Palm Beach which gets 50% of its drinking water from Lake Okeechobee. “It is imperative for our state to control our water supply systems we should never let bureaucrats in Washington D.C. control our water supplies," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.

"As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers charts new courses on water management, we should never let them increase control of the Lake’s water during shortages," said Bernard. "This kind of control would erode Florida’s water rights and create uncertainty for millions of south Floridians and business, farms and the environment.”

Smart however points out that "there’s always been federal control of federal infrastructure," besides he says, lake level decisions made by the Army Corps are always made following consultations with the South Florida Water Management District and other regional and state agencies. “It’s a collaborative process," says Smart.

A House-Senate conference committee is still working on the wording of Bill 2508. It’s not a stand alone measure, its been inextricably linked to the State budget for the next fiscal year and it can not be removed or line-item vetoed by the Governor. The final version of the state budget may be finalized and sent to the Governor by next week.