Florida Republicans, Democrats Clash Over Everglades Funding

This week, officials in Florida divided on party lines over federal funding to restore the Everglades.

Republicans including Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps. Byron Donalds and Brian Mast called for the Biden administration to “allocate the funding necessary to timely advance the federal portion of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir project.”

“The EAA Reservoir project is the crown jewel of Everglades restoration, providing relief from harmful discharges to the estuaries and sending more clean water south to the Everglades,” said DeSantis. “Advancing the state’s portion of this project is our number one priority, but the federal government has stalled, most recently failing to dedicate a single cent from its infrastructure package to its portion of this project. The Biden Administration must reverse course and dedicate the funds necessary to timely advance their portion of this important project. Florida is doing its part and the Biden administration needs to follow the path blazed by the Trump administration and provide the promised federal support.”

“Everglades restoration is a 50/50 partnership between the state and federal government, but the federal government has long lagged behind the state’s investments in projects. The EAA Reservoir Project is one of the most important Everglades restoration projects for reducing harmful discharges to the estuaries and sending more clean water south to the Everglades. Governor DeSantis expedited this critical Everglades project on his second day in office with the signing of Executive Order 19-12. Recently, the Biden administration announced a $1.1 billion one-time investment for Everglades restoration, but the funding was dedicated to other projects that, while part of the important work to restore the Everglades, will not help to meaningfully reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” the governor’s office noted.

“The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir is the crown jewel of Everglades restoration and is the single most important project for reducing harmful discharges and sending more water south,” said Rubio. “I am grateful that Governor DeSantis, Congressman Mast, and Congressman Donalds continue to prioritize this critically important project for our state. Unfortunately, the Biden administration did not allocate a single dollar for the project. I will continue to fight to fund the EAA Reservoir and do everything in my power to prevent the Biden bureaucracy from undermining this vital project.”

“Time and time again President Biden has proven that he cares more about politics than Florida’s people,” said Mast. “He simply cannot claim to support the Everglades while delaying the most crucial project, the EAA reservoir. This reservoir is critical to sending more water south and stopping toxic discharges to the estuaries, yet President Biden has now delayed the project and stubbornly refused to allocate any funding for it in his infrastructure bill. Thankfully, Governor DeSantis has led a massive state investment in this critical infrastructure because President Biden and the Army Corps don’t seem to care that Americans are being poisoned on their watch.”
“The EAA Reservoir is one of the key projects within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that has mutual benefit to both coasts by helping reduce harmful discharges on our estuaries and restoring the natural flow of the Everglades,” said U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds. “I want to thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership and commitment to Florida’s environment. The time has long passed for the federal government to join Florida in these efforts to restore the system of the Florida Everglades.”

Two Democratic congresswomen representing South Florida quickly fired back, noting that every Republican from the Sunshine State funded against President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill which included $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration.

“My Florida Republican colleagues made a choice. Instead of participating in the negotiations of this historic infrastructure law, they turned their backs on bipartisanship to try to deny the President a win. This historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure includes the largest single allocation for Everglades restoration in our history,” said Rep. U.S. Lois Frankel, D-Fla.. “Restoring the Everglades is a deeply complex, comprehensive plan, and each project we’re able to complete is a monumental win for the millions of Floridians, and hundreds of endangered plants and animal species that rely on this ecosystem. It’s beyond hypocritical for the Republican members who voted against this bill to turn around and complain about this historic investment. Their lack of graciousness is an embarrassment to our state.”

“No Florida Republican in Congress voted to support steering infrastructure money to the Everglades, and now they’re angry that Democrats made a historic $1.1 billion investment to restore our River of Grass? Just like DeSantis, who takes credit for federal funding he opposed and conveniently never says the funding came from President Biden and congressional Democrats, this crowd of Republican do-nothings cannot be taken seriously,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.. “If they want to help restore this lifeblood of Florida, they need to do their job, take tough votes, and do real work just like the rest of America does to fix our problems. These are people who tried to prevent Everglades restoration funding from becoming a reality. This armchair quarterback commentary isn’t helpful when you refuse to get in the game.”
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $11.6 billion for Army Corps of Engineers construction projects, $1.1 billion of which will be going toward Everglades restoration. This funding is on top of the historic $350 million set aside for the project in the Fiscal Year 2022 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The state of Florida also contributes regularly to these efforts,” noted Frankel’s office.
Despite all the rhetoric, Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, stressed the importance of the EAA Reservoir.
“The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir, to be built south of Lake Okeechobee, is the most important project in the entire Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and this is something Governor Ron DeSantis has led on,” said Eikenberg. “There is bipartisan support for advancing this project that will send water south to replenish the Everglades and Florida Bay, while also protecting the water supply for 9 million Floridians. No project will play a bigger role in reducing algae-causing discharges from Lake Okeechobee, with the added benefit of massive carbon sequestration to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. We hope the President’s budget request includes at least $725 million to enable the Jacksonville District to expedite this project and continue the momentum to restore America’s Everglades.”
Kevin Derby
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