Water related infrastructure projects under the purview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers follow a typical pattern for approval, funding and construction. Projects begin with a USACE led planning process that involves state, federal, and tribal entities along with provisions for public input and comments along the way. For projects costing less than $3 million, there is an expedited 3 x 3 x 3 process that allows for a three-year planning timeline (shortened from the usual seven years) involving all three levels of USACE review (district, division, and headquarters).
Once a project has been developed and reviewed and a final feasibility study submitted, a final Chief’s report is issued. This report is then submitted to Congress for authorization through the historically biennial Water and Resources Development Act (WRDA). Authorization must then be followed by appropriations to fund actual project implementation and construction.
Everglades restoration projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan are shared 50/50 between the state and federal government. One recent project ASA and our conservation partners have been extensively involved in is the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir. This project has been developed as a post authorization change report to a storage element of the Central Everglades Planning Project, which was authorized in the 2016 WRDA bill, through an atypical state mandated process.
As Congress develops the 2018 WRDA bill, the EAA project is currently under review with the USACE, having been designed by the state under Florida Senate Bill 10 (2017). Approval is expected by late summer or early fall of 2018. Timing is the issue here. The project needs to be authorized in this year’s WRDA bill to avoid a costly two-year delay until the next cycle.
The U.S. House and Senate have both released their initial 2018 WRDA bills. ASA has pushed for “placeholder” language to be inserted into the bills to reference the EAA reservoir so that the project can easily be included once the project is approved and before final floor action occurs towards the end of 2018. ASA has met with Congressional members on the issue and, along with our conservation partners, submitted a letter to leadership on the subject. As a result, both the House and Senate versions contain the placeholder language.
In addition, ASA drafted a sign-on letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in support of allocating funding from supplemental disaster appropriations for the completion of eligible Everglades related projects and the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike. Not only would this action allow for greater management flexibility, it would free additional dollars for restoration projects that would previously been committed to Dike repairs. Read the full letter here.
ASA has also joined letters to Congress with our coalition partners highlighting other provisions of WRDA that are important to the sportfishing industry, like recreational boating and natural infrastructure that you can read here and here.
For more information, please contact Florida Fisheries Policy Director, Kellie Ralston.