Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Díaz-Balart ask feds for $1.5B for Everglades restoration

everglades - Florida
The Florida delegation wants money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to flow to Florida.

U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Mario Díaz-Balart have signed a bipartisan letter asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allocate $1.5 billion for Everglades restoration.

The letter was sent to President Joe Biden Tuesday, the same day U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a similar missive to Michael Connor, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. The money would come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which the Democratic-controlled Congress approved in November.

“With the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress has provided significant funding to update our aging infrastructure and protect us from the growing impacts of climate change,” the letter from House lawmakers reads.

“The Everglades provides a unique opportunity to accomplish both goals simultaneously. We request that your administration allocate at least $1.5 billion to South Florida Ecosystem Restoration from the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration construction funding made available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) through this legislation. This infusion of money is critically needed to build on the restoration program’s recent advances and keep pace with the State of Florida’s investments.”

That money could go toward a litany of construction projects overseen by some combination of federal and state officials, including the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project and the Central Everglades Planning Project. Those projects would help capture water from Lake Okeechobee, clean it and supply water to surrounding areas, among other benefits.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act carves out funding for the Army Corps, which includes $11.6 billion for Corps construction projects and another $1.9 billion for aquatic ecosystem restoration efforts. The Corps can use that cash on any projects nationwide and faces a Jan. 14 deadline to produce a work plan describing how the money will be spent.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Lois Frankel, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto were among the 18 Florida delegation members who signed the letter to Biden. Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Byron Donalds, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar and Daniel Webster also signed on.

Each of those Democratic lawmakers voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, while all Republican members of Florida’s delegation opposed the legislation.

“Restoring the Everglades supports a myriad of benefits, including inland and coastal flood protection; recreation, habitat and ecosystem protection; human and ecological resilience; drinking water security for 9 million people; and a boon for local, state, and national economies,” the lawmakers wrote.

“A restored Everglades will enhance the carbon sequestration capacity of an ecosystem that spans 3 million acres of freshwater and estuarine wetlands, North America’s largest contiguous mangrove forest, and expansive sea-grass beds. These areas are home to 78 threatened or endangered species, encompasses the tribal lands of two Native American tribes, includes 14 national wildlife refuges, four national parks, a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.”

The letter also repeated calls from Wasserman Schultz for the Corps to allocate $5 billion over the next five years toward Everglades restoration. To that end, the letter requested the Corps add $1.5 billion in supplemental funding during Fiscal Years 2022, 2023 and 2024, which could aid in completing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects.

“Previous administrations have utilized supplemental funding to allow the Army Corps to initiate construction on CERP projects,” the letter concluded. “Your administration now has a similar opportunity. We would therefore urge you to take advantage of this unique and timely chance to expedite progress on Everglades restoration.”

The two letters sent by Florida’s Senate and House delegation members mean 20 of Florida’s 29 members are now on record pressing for the $1.5 billion in Everglades restoration funds. The issue has been bipartisan in nature, with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis promising $2.5 billion in state funding for water projects during his first term in office.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


One comment

  • tom palmer

    December 8, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    Rare bipartisan support. Thanks to all

Comments are closed.


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