STUART ? Governor Charlie Crist today, continuing his focus on protecting the
health of the Everglades, along with former Senator Ken Pruitt, Florida
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael W. Sole and
several local and environmental leaders, toured the St. Lucie River and estuary
? a component of the northern Everglades ecosystem. The trip, beginning at one
of Florida?s DEP designated Clean Marinas, reinforces the Governor?s commitment
to restoring the River of Grass. During the past three years, Governor Crist has
signed budgets designating $300 million toward Everglades restoration.
?The well-being of the St. Lucie River and estuary is of great importance to
Florida?s economy and quality of life,? said Governor Crist. ?Viewing this
amazing habitat further confirms the need to acquire land from U.S. Sugar so
that the mosaic of estuaries, freshwater ponds, prairies and forested uplands
that compose Florida?s famed River of Grass can be restored and protected for
Governor Crist?s tour of the St. Lucie River began in Stuart at the Sunset
Bay Marina and Anchorage, the 200th member of DEP?s Florida Clean Marina
Program. Florida's marine industry represents a total economic output of more
than $18.4 billion and supports more than 220,000 jobs.
The tour is a part of the Governor?s continued focus on protecting the health
of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers
and their estuaries. In his 2010-11 budget recommendations, Governor Crist
proposed $50 million to ensure that Everglades projects will continue to restore
a more natural water flow for this unique ecosystem and improve water quality
for all of South Florida. Lake Okeechobee is the upstream water source for the
Everglades and provides the water supply for nearby towns, agricultural
operations and downstream ecosystems. The lake supports a multi-million dollar
recreational and commercial fishery, as well as flood control for surrounding
The St. Lucie River watershed is one of the largest brackish water systems on
Florida?s east coast and an essential component of the northern Everglades
ecosystem. These waters provide a vital habitat for abundant populations of fish
and other economically important species.
?Governor Crist?s visit today draws attention to the need for restoration of
the entire Everglades ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to Florida
Bay,? said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. ?The St. Lucie River
and Estuary together form a critical part of that vast ecosystem and are
integral to the way of life in Martin and St. Lucie counties. We are grateful
for the Governor's bold vision and unrelenting commitment to acquiring lands
critical for restoration."
On June 24, 2008, Governor Crist announced that the State of Florida would
acquire land in the Everglades Agricultural Area from U.S. Sugar, providing an
extraordinary opportunity for Everglades restoration. The land will safeguard
the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries, offering the following
- Increasing the availability of water storage to significantly reduce
the potential for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee caused by
?back-pumping? to the St. Lucie River watershed when lake levels are high.
Delivering cleaner water to the Everglades and the St. Lucie River watershed
during dry times and greater water storage to protect the natural system during
wet years. Preventing large phosphorus loads from entering the Everglades and
the St. Lucie River watershed every year.Providing additional water storage
alternatives to relieve some pressures on the Herbert Hoover Dike while the
federal government undertakes repairs.
?Part of the solution to improve and protect water quality in the St. Lucie
estuary is to construct more water storage and treatment areas in the Everglades
Agricultural Area,? said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. ?The U.S. Sugar land
acquisition will allow for the construction of additional reservoirs and water
quality treatment areas, allowing water to be moved south and improving water
quality in coastal estuaries.?
Adding to the expected benefits of acquiring agricultural land from U.S.
Sugar, Martin County recently received $4 million in American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act funds to reestablish oyster reefs in the St. Lucie estuary.
This project will help improve water quality and provide a refuge for small fish
and other aquatic life, benefiting the health of the ecosystem and stimulating
the local economy. According to Martin County, in 2008, residents and visitors
to the county?s waterways spent more than $11.8 million on recreational
activities, creating 2,502 jobs. To learn more about oyster restoration
projects, visit www.oysterrestoration.com.
About Everglades Restoration
Florida?s Everglades restoration efforts are truly historic. To date, Florida
has invested more than $2.4 billion in the 30-year, $10.9 billion Comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Plan. The plan is a 50/50 state and federal partnership
to restore and protect the Everglades. During the two tightest budget years in
Florida history, $50 million has been dedicated for Everglades restoration in
both 2008 and 2009 to continue the state?s partnership with the federal
government. The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District
recently agreed to invest approximately $530 million for 72,500 acres of
property south of Lake Okeechobee. The district will have an option to purchase
another 107,500 acres for restoration within 10 years after closing.
In 2007, Governor Crist worked to expand the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act
to safeguard the entire northern Everglades system, including the Lake
Okeechobee watershed as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and
estuaries. He has worked to protect and improve the quality, quantity, timing
and distribution of water north of Lake Okeechobee. Additionally, the
continuation of the Florida Forever program is a key component to securing the
future of the Everglades.
For more information, visit