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Federal funding for ‘Glades gets nod

By Staff | Dec 19, 2019

Federal funding towards Everglades restoration projects is poised to provide $200 million next year.

The House and Senate agreed upon their year-end spending deal earlier in the week, which includes federal dollars, in-full, that state legislators have been clamoring for. This would only be the second time in 20 years that Everglades restoration is slated for complete funding on the federal level, and would be the largest federal investment in the project to date.

The tentative funding agreement reached is set to make its way to President Donald Trump’s desk for approval.

“It is a welcome and historic step that will accelerate completion of projects to reduce the discharge of algae-causing polluted water to our coasts and restore the flow of fresh water south through the River of Grass,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, in a statement. “House and Senate appropriators are wise to recognize that this $200 million, when combined with the dollar-for-dollar commitment by the state of Florida, is a sound investment in our economy, our environment and our public health.”

Eikenberg said that funding, from both the state and federal levels, needs to continue to ensure Everglades projects get done on time.

“Full and consistent funding from both Tallahassee and Washington is critical to keep the conveyor belt of project planning, construction and completion on track,” Eikenberg said. “This federal funding agreement should persuade the Florida Legislature to join Governor DeSantis in his call for sustained, consistent funding for Everglades restoration and clean water projects of $625 million annually over the next three years.”

Lawmakers in Southwest Florida over and over again have been calling for Everglades funding in the whole. It seems as if they will finally get their wish.

Dane Eagle, who serves as a State Rep. for the 77th District (Cape Coral) and House Majority Leader, said he is pleased to see the feds hold up their end of the bargain.

Eagle commended the work of Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, and Republican senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, for their involvement in the bill.

As for the environment, Eagle said this funding is instrumental not just now, but the continuation of funding in the future to restore Florida’s waterways.

“It’s entirely vital,” Eagle said of the impact of the funding on the Everglades. “If we’re going to fix this issue, it’s going to take time and money. It’s a 100-year-old problem. We need to continue to build infrastructure projects to restore the natural water flow. We need to concentrate on water from the east, west, north and especially south. We need the water flowing the way it was intended, not just west and east into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.”

Eagle also mentioned that this past year, the state went above and beyond its benchmark and appropriated $687 million in Everglades restoration dollars — a paradigm shift in funding.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who was involved in appropriating the funding, spoke on the House floor Tuesday.

“Known as the River of Grass, the Everglades is a 100-mile-long natural region of tropical wetlands that is the main source of water for millions of Floridians and visitors,” she said. “It contains one of Florida’s, and America’s, most popular national parks, it is home to hundreds of animal species. The state of Florida and the federal government are engaged in a long-term undertaking to restore its natural flow and improve water quality. This bill, Madam Speaker, includes $200 million to Everglades restoration, the largest allocation ever, by the federal government for this project. It will help protect South Florida’s magnificent ecosystem, keep our water safe, and drive our economy.”

The bill also includes $185 million in additional funding for Army Corps of Engineers construction projects, for which environmental restoration projects can compete.

Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association, was pleased to see the allocation of Everglades funding in the bill.

“We commend park champions, on both sides of the aisle who stood up today for the future of our public lands and America’s legacy,” Pierno said, in a statement. “This investment comes at a critical time for our national parks, which are suffering as their aging infrastructure reaches a breaking point. Trails, roads and visitor centers are crumbling, and staff levels are decreasing. This bill provides needed investments to protect our parks’ irreplaceable resources and enhance the visitor experience for the more than 330 million people that travel to our parks every year.”

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