Context Florida
“Dan Peterson: Buying more land isn’t Amendment 1’s first priority”
April 2, 2015
By Dan Peterson

A major debate is taking place in the Florida House and Senate over public policy regarding water and the allocation of Amendment 1 funds. Various special interests are striving to make their voice the most influential regarding these two high profile issues. At stake is finding a balance of effective policies, which will guard our environment, meet our water needs and most wisely use Amendment 1 funds.

Sound public policy would dictate that good stewardship of lands currently owned by government should take priority over accumulating more land. Government entities own more than 30 percent of Florida with 28 percent of our state already in conservation.If the millions of acres already under state ownership are not maintained, buying more land will only compound problems. And, if more lands are to be purchased or leased, they must be acquiredwith a scientifically sound purpose and meet a real public need.

Another top priority should be to ensure sufficient water quantity.Focusing on projects that will stabilize the quantity of water through retention and storage in the most efficient locations would make a huge difference for Florida’s future. One such example would be to store water on lands north of Lake Okeechobee. If water could be captured there, it could be stored for multiple future uses and it would also ease the pressure of too much water flowing into Lake Okeechobee. This, in turn, would lessen or prevent the need for the type of massive release of water, which created devastating algae plumes in Martin County in 2013.

Addressing such complicated issues is a grueling task. Senate Bill 918 is still being debated while House Bill 7003 has been passed. This particular legislation balances these priorities reasonably well. If agreement between the legislative chambers can be found, the rewards will be beneficial and long lasting.

Dan Peterson is director of the Orlando-based Center for Property Rights at The James Madison Institute.Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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