Federal plan to expedite “linchpin” project for Everglades draws bipartisan cheer

These plans are seen as critical for stopping the flow of polluted water to environmentally sensitive areas.

 A key part of the Everglades restoration effort received a federal boost Tuesday.

Plans to commit $265 million to build the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir — and begin advertising for contractors to do the work — drew a rare bipartisan cheer when it was announced Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz hailed the news that $265 million for the reservoir project will be coming out of the $350 million President Joe Biden’s administration designated for Everglades restoration in the 2022 budget. Before Tuesday, critics had pointed to previous federal commitments to the overall Everglades restoration plans as hollow efforts because of the lack of specific plans for federal funds to go to the essential reservoir’s construction.

Restoring the Everglades has been among Wasserman Schultz’s efforts for years, including requests to previous administrations, she said.

“President Biden’s commitment to Everglades restoration does not waver,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Tuesday. “His overall funding and this move to expedite the EAA Reservoir proves that.”

Restoring the Everglades became the largest environmental restoration project in U.S. history when the Biden Administration dedicated $1.1 billion to Florida’s famed “River of Grass” in the Infrastructure Law passed in November.

That infrastructure funding was hailed as a key step to protecting the area essential for providing drinking water to 8 million Floridians. And it comes on top of the $350 million for the Everglades in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

Another $407 million for the Everglades is proposed for the FY 2023 budget, the highest amount the Everglades has ever received in the annual budget, Wasserman Schultz said. That would bring the administration’s commitment to the Everglades to $1.77 billion since 2021.

But Republicans, particularly U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, pointed out that there were no specific plans to build the critical reservoir when the infrastructure funding was announced in January.

Mast called Tuesday’s announcement “great news” — for a start.

“It’s clear that the Biden Administration heard the outrage from Florida’s elected officials and environmental groups after they delayed the … reservoir by nearly two years and failed to fund it in their infrastructure bill,” Mast said in a statement. “This turn of events is great news for Everglades restoration and the communities that suffer from toxic discharges nearly every summer, though it must be noted that it is still a far cry from the more than $2 billion that is needed to complete the project. I will keep pushing to get the Biden Administration to fully fund this project.”

Once completed, there will be a 23-foot deep, 16-square-mile reservoir that can hold polluted water coming from Lake Okeechobee. Plans are that the water that goes there can be pumped into a 10-square mile stormwater treatment area in batches, so it can be cleaned instead of discharged as raw, polluted water into rivers where it causes fish-killing, blue-green algae blooms.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Tom

    May 24, 2022 at 11:33 pm

    When Wassermann Shultz was DNC chair for Obummer, she spent crazy on wardrobe. Just really pathetic, DNC raised money. She was ridiculed and so disliked by emperors inner circle.

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