By Eric Eikenberg
Florida Legislature includes $259M for Everglades in budget
Governor Rick Scott’s recent signing of the 2014-2015 state budget provides a record-level $259 million for a variety of Everglades restoration and water quality projects.
This move by the Florida Legislature indicates that Tallahassee has heard and sympathizes with the public outcry following last summer’s water crisis—when billions of gallons of polluted Lake Okeechobee water were dumped to the east and west coasts of Florida down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers causing toxic algal blooms, fish kills, economic loss and threats to public health.
Funding these critical projects will aid in mitigating the negative consequences of high-water events and move Everglades restoration forward.
Included within the $259 million appropriation is $90 million dollars in construction funding for the next 2.6 miles of Tamiami Trail bridging. The bridging of Tamiami Trail is vital to overall efforts to improve freshwater flow from the central Everglades into Everglades National Park.
Florida’s voluntary investment in this federal project will accelerate construction over the coming years.
WRRDA receives bipartisan congressional approval
After seven years of waiting, the United States Congress overwhelmingly approved H.R. 3080: the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). This bipartisan action is significant because it enables four new Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects to move forward.
In particular, an important construction project along the Caloosahatchee river was given the green light and, once funded, will provide 220,000 acre feet of additional storage for use during periods of heavy rain as well as during severe droughts.
Influential members of Congress are also calling on the next WRRDA legislation to be considered during 2015-2016. This commitment is promising; new legislation will authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), responsible for moving Lake Okeechobee water south into the central Everglades. The federal agency responsible for Everglades restoration is now authorized to construct these important projects in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Florida’s bi-partisan Congressional delegation also gave WRRDA their full support. For more information on the Caloosahatchee reservoir, please click here.
The four CERP projects authorized by WRRDA are:
Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands
Caloosahatchee C-43 Reservoir
Broward Water Preserve Areas
C-111 Spreader Canal