Florida lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Mario Diaz-Balart are trying again to give the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to go forward with Everglades restoration projects without having to have Congress sign off on each one.
The ‘‘Everglades for the Next Generation Act,’’ was filed as Senate Bill 1234 in the U.S. Senate by Democrat Nelson, and in the U.S. House of Representatives, by Democrat Hastings and Republican Diaz-Balart..
Such bills have been filed before.
In a news release issued by his office Thursday, Nelson expressed frustration with current requirements that call for the corps to obtain congressional approval through a water bill for each project. He said that has needlessly slowed everything down, citing the $1.9 billion Central Everglades Planning Project as an example. Nelson said the project was “shovel ready’ in December 2014, but the corps had to wait until it got approval from Congress in December 2016 to begin.
“Restoring the Everglades is a top priority,” Nelson said. “There’s simply too much at stake here in Florida to wait around for Congress to pass a water bill every few years. This bill will allow the Corps to begin work on these projects as soon as they are ready.
Three Everglades-restoration projects are currently in the planning stage: the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the Western Everglades Project, and the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project.
If the bill is approved, construction on these three projects could begin as soon as the Corps deems them ready – instead of waiting years for Congress to authorize them in a future water bill.