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By Contact ReporterSun Sentinel

An  ambitious plan in the Florida Senate to combat future instances of green slime upon Florida’s waters has been scaled back in the wake of opposition from the House, the sugar industry and Glades-area farm workers.

The plan initially called for a $2.4 billion purchase of 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee to build a massive reservoir that would allow water to be sent south from the lake and cleaned before flowing through the Everglades to Florida Bay.

But in an effort to meet critics halfway, the bill was heavily amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. It now will cost $1.5 billion and sit largely on a 31,000-acre area in the southern part of the Everglades Agricultural Area in northwest Palm Beach County.

The South Florida Water Management District would have the lead role in negotiating sales of private land or land swaps. An agriculture program on public land in which prisoners work the fields would end, freeing up that land to swap with any private land needed to build the reservoir.

The amount of land needed is far less because plans now call for the reservoir to be much deeper at 14 feet.

The plan also now has more economic incentives for Glades residents, including money for an inland seaport at Pahokee and an airport in Clewiston, plus vocational training for residents.

“There’s more than one way to get southern storage,” said state Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the bill’s sponsor. “Continuing to send guacamole water out of the lake whenever there is a danger of flooding is unacceptable.”

The original plan called for issuing bonds to pay for reservoir. The new plan has no bonds in the first year but would likely use bonds in subsequent years.

The bill, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, next goes to the Senate floor.

A House version has not yet had a committee hearing. The Everglades plan could become part of negotiations as the House tries to cajole the Senate into supporting House priorities such as the dissolution of the economic incentive agency Enterprise Florida.