Proposed central Florida reservoir funding splits environmentalists

By Bruce Ritchie | 04/29/2024 03:55 PM EDT

The root of the disagreement is the quality of the water that could flow into the St. Johns River.

Night falls over downtown with the lights on at Alltel Stadium on February 4, 2005 before Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Florida.

Critics say a proposal to spend $400 million on a reservoir threatens the St. Johns River, shown here flowing through Jacksonville more than 200 miles downstream from the project. Brian Bahr/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida environmentalists are divided on a proposal to set aside $400 million for a reservoir in central Florida, disagreeing on the impact it could have on water quality and the flow in the St. Johns River.

The $400 million was inserted into the 2024-25 budget proposal during the conference committee process, with support from Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

Some environmentalists support the project, saying it will help protect the Indian River Lagoon by diverting water that historically never flowed into the troubled water body. But representatives of St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Florida Springs Council say the proposed project on former citrus grove land poses a threat to the St. Johns River and should have received more scrutiny.


“It’s simply bad policy,” Lisa Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper said last week during a webinar. “There was never a committee hearing. There was no public discussion. And this is something even the agencies working on this were surprised.”