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Fla. governor approves $2 billion for Everglades preservation

Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2000

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (AP) -- Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday signed a law setting aside $2 billion to help restore the Everglades, and called on Congress to match that commitment.

''It is time we, as a state and a nation, protect the beauty, the natural water systems and the endangered species that make the Everglades a truly unique and precious landscape,'' Bush said.

The bill earmarks $200 million a year over the next 10 years to restore a more natural flow of water through the Everglades and lower the amount of fertilizer-saturated water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and eventually into Florida Bay, at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from sugar cane fields, citrus groves and cattle ranches have contributed to runaway algae growth and destroyed fish and plant life in the lake and bay.

Vice President Al Gore submitted a federal version of the bill to Congress last year.

Peter G. Umhofer, a senior adviser for the U.S. Interior Department, said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt supports the restoration and will work to make sure federal money is available.

The state law will also help protect 68 endangered species in the Everglades, an expanse of sawgrass, hardwood, cypress swamps and mangroves.

Since 1993, the federal government has spent $1.2 billion in Florida on related projects, including purchasing 500,000 acres in and around the Everglades National Park.

A separate bill signed by Bush provides $38.5 million for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee.



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