Last week at the Florida Capitol, an amended Senate Bill 2508 passed by a 37-2 vote. The controversial SB 2508, which deals with environmental resource appropriations and water management, now goes to conference, where the House and Senate will negotiate differences and develop final language. From the get go, controversy surrounded this bill, and you have probably seen a lot of it on social media. Today, concerns still remain for SB 2508, and the battle intensifies.

The amended SB 2508 removed many of the worst provisions of the original bill. Check out an earlier article detailing the bill’s potential impact. The amendment was a huge victory for South Florida’s ecosystems–and made possible by the public pressure campaign by Captains for Clean Water and others. However, as currently written, SB 2508 still has provisions that would harm and/or complicate effective water management and Everglades restoration efforts.

For example, the amended bill still includes language which would constrain the South Florida Water Management District’s ability to reduce harmful discharges by codifying the decades-old 40E rules that prioritize agricultural water supply interests. Further, the amended bill contains provisions that would make the entire budget contingent on the bill’s passage. So, the more than $300 million for everglades restoration would only be available if SB 2508 is passed into law.

As if you haven’t gathered it already, this is an amazingly complex bill and larger issue–probably by design. For decades, the issue of water management in Florida has been plagued by the powerful sugar industry, which has flexed its influence to secure favorable water management policies. An example includes keeping Lake Okeechobee levels high, so agriculture always has an irrigation supply. However, this oftentimes results or contributes to the harmful east and west discharges that destroy estuaries and coastal communities alike.

An example of the ongoing pro-SB 2508 messaging campaign, note the return address.

Now, external forces are at play seeking to undermine Captains for Clean Water’s movement and momentum. CFCW was forced to take down their “Kill the Bill” video because it contained footage from a public Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. Additionally, there are now messaging campaigns starting up claiming SB 2508 is a commonsense way to protect water quality and preserve the Everglades. The return address on these letters is from a Washington, DC consulting firm, the State Government Leadership Foundation. According to this group’s own website, its core issues are education, economic prosperity, criminal justice reform, and (here’s the kicker) agriculture–nothing about the everglades or environmental conservation.

If SB 2508 was any of those things, groups like Captains for Clean Water, the Everglades Foundation, or Friends of the Everglades would have been involved in actually crafting the bill, but more importantly, they would support the bill. That isn’t the case. Thus SB 2508 must be further improved during the upcoming conference process (where the House and Senate agree on one piece of legislation before it goes to the Governor’s desk).

Check out this CFCW update for a full run down of the external forces at play.

In response to Captains’ “Kill Bill” video being taken down, you’ll probably see a bunch of fishing guides posting “CENSORED: Kill Senate Bill 2508” on social media over the next few days. So, understand the context and the fact that all these guides and concerned stakeholders are not going to stay quiet.

Next week, we’ll learn more about SB 2508’s future, but it’s still important to remain engaged and continue advocating for clean water. If you haven’t already, head over to Captains for Clean Water’s website and sign on to their petition, which is at more than 40,000 signatures. Also, for a good refresher on the state of play, check out “Kill the Bill” Vol. 2.

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