South Florida members of Congress are keeping a watchful eye on legislation approved by a key committee earlier this week to fund a restoration project in the Everglades that the full U.S. House still has to vote on.
The House Appropriations Committee approved $200 million in allocations – the full amount the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it needed — toward restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades.
“This bill will protect Florida’s Everglades and clean water, expand renewable and efficient energy programs, restore our beaches and provide opportunities to grow Florida’s economy,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that wrote the legislation.
The Everglades is a 100-mile-long area of tropical wetlands that is the main source of water for eight million people in South Florida. The state of Florida has been working with the federal government on a long-term restoration projects for the area, also known as the River of Grass, with the federal government matching state expenditures.
Earlier this year, Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bill that would expedite federal expenditures on any Everglades projects where Congress would consider Everglades restoration separately from other assignments. That bill is still under consideration in the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
“When Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) almost 20 years ago, it envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment,” said Rep. Hastings. “I am pleased to see that the federal government is finally living up to that commitment (with the vote this week). “I thank Members of the Florida Delegation and the Appropriations Committee for working with me to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality of South Florida. “So much of South Florida’s quality of life depends on the famed River of Grass. Everglades restoration is not just an environmental project. It is tied to all of Florida’s water quality issues, which have had serious economic consequences for our state,” said the congressman.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation added, “The key to real progress in Everglades restoration is completion of projects. Full and consistent funding from the federal government is imperative if we are to keep the conveyor belt of project planning, construction and completion on track. The House Appropriations Committee’s spending bill today puts us on path to get there.”
According to the National Park Service, CERP was originally created in an effort to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.”
The House is expected to vote on the full appropriations bill in June, and the legislation will then head to the U.S. Senate for consideration. President Trump has expressed support for the Everglades allocation, so the funding is expected to face minimal opposition.
William Prego is a reporter in the South Florida Media Network’s Washington, D.C., Bureau.