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North Florida Coalition Opposes Water Conservation Dollars Going to South Florida

Former Congressman Steve Southerland.
Former Congressman Steve Southerland.

A coalition calling itself Stand Up North Florida went public Monday. It says it wants more state water conservation money to go to North and Central Florida. Representing the group were local and state politicians and business leaders. Environmentalists were notably absent.

Former Congressman Steve Southerland.
Former Congressman Steve Southerland.

Former Republican Congressman Steve Southerland, the coalition’s chair, said the group opposes Senate President Joe Negron’s $2.4 billion plan to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

“North and Central Florida are home to 70 percent of the Florida’s river water sheds, the majority -if not all - of our springs, and it provides nearly all of the recharge to the Florida aquifer," he said."Contaminated water is not exclusive to South Florida.”

Opposing the senate Republican’s proposal seems to be Stand Up North Florida’s only position. There’s little paper trail on the funding. It’s a limited liability company, which requires filing a single document with the Secretary of State’s office. LLC’s don’t file tax returns and Southerland declined to disclose donors and wouldn’t say if it’s backed by the sugar industry.

“There are individuals who want to give, and these are individuals to your point, that want to give to this cause without being know and so therefore they have the right to do so,” he said.

Others have also criticized Negron’s reservoir proposal. Sugarcane growers don’t want to sell tens-of thousands of acres of farm land and members of the Florida House and Gov. Rick Scott don’t want to spend the money. Stand Up North Florida had been lobbying local governments against Negron’s proposal since last fall.

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Sarah Mueller is the first recipient of the WFSU Media Capitol Reporting Fellowship. She’ll be covering the 2017 Florida legislative session and recently earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield. Sarah was part of the Illinois Statehouse press corps as an intern for NPR Illinois in 2016. When not working, she enjoys playing her yellow lab, watching documentaries and reading memoirs.
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