A measure to annually float more money into the state’s natural springs and to pump additional dollars into the St. Johns River is headed to the Senate floor for a full vote.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the proposal (SB 204), sponsored by Chairman Rob Bradley, which would allocate $50 million each year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida. The plan also would boost annual funding for springs projects from $50 million to $75 million. Money for the projects would come through a 2014 constitutional amendment, which voters approved to set aside a portion of real-estate taxes for land and water conservation. State economists have estimated the taxes will generate $862.2 million for the Land Acquisition Trust Fund this year.
Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, earlier this month steered a separate measure (SB 370) to the Senate floor that would earmark $100 million a year from the fund to the Florida Forever land-preservation program. The Florida Forever measure also would ban the use of trust fund money to cover operational expenses within the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of State.
Other lawmakers are seeking $50 million from the fund (SB 786 and HB 339) to help restore the Indian River Lagoon. Also, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, is backing legislation (SB 174) that seeks $50 million a year for beach projects.