January 25, 2022 - Today in Tallahassee, the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee passed unanimously the Everglades Protection Area bill (HB 729) sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis. The legislation will help protect the taxpayer investment and statewide interest in Everglades restoration by having certain comprehensive plans and comprehensive plan amendments undergo heightened review so they do not adversely impact Everglades restoration. Click here to watch the subcommittee video.
The Everglades Protection Area (EvPA) consists of remnant Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee and includes the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) and Everglades National Park (ENP). The EvPA is critical to aquifer recharge in South Florida with over 5 million Floridians and millions of tourists relying on the Everglades for drinking water supply. It also provides critical habitat for endangered and threatened species as well as world-class recreation for boating and fishing.
The bill would require comprehensive plans and comprehensive plan amendments affecting areas within 2 miles of the EvPA boundary to follow the State Coordinated Review Process instead of the Expedited State Review Process. The State Coordinated Review Process is more thorough and consists of an additional 30 days for agency review on the front end and 14 additional days before the development plan becomes effective on the back end.
Further, the bill calls for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to determine whether the proposed development within this 2-mile area would adversely impact the EvPA or Everglades restoration. If the proposal would adversely impact Everglades restoration, the local government would need to modify the proposed plan to mitigate the adverse impacts.
This commonsense legislation is good for the environment, good for taxpayers, and good policy. It ensures that as Florida continues to grow it does not happen expense of our investment in the Everglades and the public’s water supply in South Florida.