While the headlines and on-the-ground reports of yet another summer of algae-laden waters in Florida are grim, they are a vivid reminder to the country of the importance of expediting Everglades restoration. ASA and our conservation partners have been very involved in moving this process along at the federal level, engaging Congressional members and Administration officials to ensure these important projects remain priorities. Several recent announcements are attributable to these efforts.
In early July, the USACE announced that it would use $514 million in supplemental disaster funding to fully fund rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike on an expedited timeline. ASA spearheaded a partner letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James requesting that funds be set aside for that purpose back in April. While Dike rehabilitation is not an Everglades restoration project, it is a key component for additional flexibility in Lake Okeechobee discharges. In addition, fully funding this project will allow for additional annual appropriations to be directed to restoration projects rather than Dike repairs.
The reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee continues to move forward at a brisk pace. The EAA Reservoir project, which is a Post Authorization Change Report to the Central Everglades Planning Project authorized in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act, was passed in the House WRDA bill with “placeholder” language pending final evaluation by the USACE.
The Senate WRDA bill is awaiting a floor vote with similar “placeholder” language that is poised to be replaced with actual authorization language after recent project approval by the USACE and the Office of Management and Budget. Timing of these approvals has been a critical focus for ASA to ensure the project is included in the biennial WRDA bill, having submitted letters to both the USACE and OMB requesting expedited review of the project.
We, along with 80+ ASA members and our conservation partners, submitted a Congressional letter requesting the placeholder language be included, pending that review. Based on these developments, we are optimistic that the southern reservoir will be included in a 2018 WRDA bill.
For more information, please contact Florida Fisheries Policy Director, Kellie Ralston.