Florida lawmakers push water agenda
WASHINGTON – Fully upgrading the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee could be done three years ahead of schedule if Congress appropriated the full amount this year to complete the project, a senior U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official told a gathering of congressional lawmakers from Florida Wednesday (Feb. 15th).
“If we were able to maximize funding, we think we could move the timetable up to 2022 (from 2025),” Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, the agency’s deputy district commander for South Florida, told the group. “There are some constraints with being able to work on components of the dike at the same time, so we don’t think it’s feasible to speed it up any faster than (that).”
But convincing Congress to pony up the $800 million for the dike — not to mention funds for dozens of other Everglades-related projects — won’t be easy considering the limited resources and competing interests on Capitol Hill, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston.
“We should all maintain a constant worry that the patience of our colleagues who have very major water projects of their own (around the nation) in the queue and the number of years that this project was expected to take — and is taking — has a tendency to wear thin not only on the staff that makes recommendations on funding these projects but on our colleagues.”
The bipartisan Florida congressional delegation met to discuss the state’s significant water woes, which range from last summer’s toxic algae blooms along the Atlantic coast that were visible from space, nutrient-addled shorelines in Southwest Florida that have wreaked economic devastation, and red tides that led to massive fish kills near Sarasota.
Much of Wednesday’s meeting focused on speeding up and funding the massive, multibillion-dollar project to rehabilitate the Everglades.