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Would Proposed Everglades Reservoir Create Jobs Or Eliminate Them? Studies Are Contradictory

Sugarcane fields and stormwater treatment areas near the Everglades Agricultural Area.
USGS, via Wikimedia Commons
Sugarcane fields and stormwater treatment areas near the Everglades Agricultural Area.

A proposal to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee could create more than 39,000 jobs, according to a study released Tuesday by the Everglades Foundation.

That contradicts another study released last week by the conservative James Madison Institute, which says the reservoir would cost about 4,100 jobs.

The study released by the Everglades Foundation was conducted by researchers at Clemson University. They say building the reservoir would create some short-term jobs in construction. But the bigger benefit would come after the reservoir's finished. Its purpose is to reduce Lake Okeechobee water discharges that led to toxic blue-green algae blooms on Florida's coasts last summer. Among other economic impacts, the blooms drove down real estate values, and the study's authors say getting rid of the blooms would increase real estate values in Lee and Martin counties by $19 billion.

"The increase in the real estate value because the water is cleaner has the spillover effect of inducing... new real estate construction," said Dr. Michael Maloney, the study's lead investigator. "Real estate value increases are what's going to drive economic growth."

The study from the James Madison Institute focused on Palm Beach and Hendry counties. It showed that agriculture jobs might be lost because of the reservoir. That's because, if approved by lawmakers, the reservoir would be constructed on 60,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee.

Maloney, the Clemson University researcher, said his team is working on another study about the number of jobs that might be lost.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.
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