The U.S. House of Representatives is advancing legislation aimed at regulating Florida’s waterways, as the measure earns approval from members of the Florida congressional delegation.
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) now heads to the U.S. Senate. The measure will allow for additional construction to help protect the Everglades.
“I am extremely proud to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which delivers on my constituents’ top environmental priorities: expediting Everglades restoration, increasing transparency about water flow, and improving the ecosystem in Florida Bay, which supports South Florida’s economy and jobs in eco-tourism,” Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said.
“With today’s bill, we make it very clear to the Corps that they must begin construction of the reservoir at its earliest opportunity, and they are not to wait for a ‘new start’ designation, because my constituents need solutions now – not 10 years from now. I look forward to continuing to work with the community on these critical environmental and economic issues.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for designating the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir as a “new start” project that would have delayed construction on the project until 2021.
Mucarsel-Powell backed a provision in the law providing funding to begin construction this year.
Republican Rep. Brian Mast also celebrated the legislation for its effects on toxic discharges stemming from Lake Okeechobee.
“For decades, Florida’s coastal communities have been on the receiving end of toxic discharges, including recently, discharges that have tested more than 60 times more toxic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for human contact,” Mast said.
“These discharges put public health at risk, damage the economy and destroy the environment. We have worked tirelessly to fight these discharges, and passing this legislation is a critical step in the right direction.”
The House approved the bill Wednesday by a voice vote, signaling bipartisan support for the legislation. It’s not clear how quickly the Senate will take up the measure, as the chamber works to continue hammer out additional relief legislation dealing with the effects of COVID-19.