Legislation that would add financial muscle to the obsure Lake Worth Drainage District — and possibly launch an ambitious South Florida water project — was approved Wednesday without comment by the House.
The House OK’d the legislation 117-0 by first-year Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, as part of a consent calendar that included almost two-dozen local bills.
The measure (HB 741) would give the drainage district authority to issue taxpayer-backed bonds to pay for canal improvements and construction of a 25-billion-gallon reservoir in western Palm Beach County to hold stormwater.
The water would then be treated and moved through existing canals to South Florida’s thirsty shoreline communities from Wellington to Fort Lauderdale.
The legislation now awaits a Senate vote.
Supporters have touted the project as a common sense solution to the region’s environmental and growth management problems. But Gov. Rick Scott’s office has raised questions — which still may be unresolved — about taxpayer liability stemming from the plan, called the C-51 Reservoir Project.
Berman was warned earlier this session that Scott was considering vetoing the legislation. But the governor’s office hasn’t shed more light about his views on the project.
Currently, stormwater is wasted — flushed from the C-51 canal into the Lake Worth Lagoon — bringing with it sediments, pollutants and fresh water that seriously damage wildlife in the lagoon.
Instead, the project calls for it to be routed from the new reservoir east through the C-51 canal, then south to the Hillsboro Canal in Broward County. The project would rely on the ability of a patchwork of water managers, utilities and a controversial mining company — all with separate motives — to work together on the estimated $500 million project.