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Senate panel backs money for St. Johns River

Proposal sponsored by R-Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley

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Looking to tap conservation money approved by voters in 2014, a Senate committee Tuesday approved a plan that would earmark $35 million a year for projects related to the St. Johns River or the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida.

The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee unanimously approved the proposal (SB 234), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican whose district includes areas along the St. Johns River.

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"It is central to our way of life as Floridians, and it in many ways defines the character of the region that I represent and come from, along with our springs," Bradley said.

The bill is similar to a measure last year, known as "Legacy Florida," that earmarked money for the Everglades, Lake Apopka and natural springs.

Under Bradley's proposal, money would be distributed each year from the state's Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the St. Johns River Water Management District for projects related to the St. Johns and the Keystone Heights lake region.

The trust fund is used to carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that required spending on conservation projects.