Hastings, Diaz-Balart, Wasserman Schultz Advocate for Accelerated Everglades Restoration in WRDA 2020

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Fort Lauderdale, FL, May 5, 2020 | comments
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) led Florida Members in sending a bipartisan letter to Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee Chair Napolitano, and Ranking Subcommittee Member Westerman requesting they include language in the upcoming Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) bill that would treat all Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) sub-projects as on-going activities under the larger restoration project already congressionally authorized in WRDA 2000. The projects’ timelines are greatly affected by the need to authorize each subcomponent and the delays impact the communities and ecosystems the project intends to serve. Joining Hastings in signing the letter are Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). (Please find a copy of the letter below and attached):

April 30, 2020

Chairman Peter A. DeFazio
Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
2165 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Ranking Member Sam Graves
Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
2164 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Chairwoman Grace F. Napolitano
Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment
2165 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Ranking Member Bruce Westerman
Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment
2164 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Subcommittee Chair Napolitano, and Ranking Subcommittee Member Westerman:

Thank you for your work to gather requests for proposed projects, studies, and policies for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020.

As you work to finalize WRDA 2020 authorizations, we respectfully request that you include language to streamline approval processes for projects authorized as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) approved by Congress in WRDA 2000. [1] Allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to consider individual projects that are part of a larger umbrella project, such as the CERP, as ongoing activities would eliminate the need for a separate congressional authorization for each project and ensure a more timely and predictable completion of such projects for our communities. Additionally, this would eliminate the need for conditionally approved projects from competing with other USACE projects for funding and congressional authorization.

In the case of South Florida, each project authorized as part of the CERP provides greater ecosystem and water supply benefits, undoubtedly ensuring South Florida’s economic and ecosystem health. The CERP’s conditionally authorized 68 projects, such as the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project (LRWRP), must await additional congressional authorization and subsequent appropriations before construction may begin, which prevents USACE from beginning crucial projects that restore the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of water to improve ecosystem health and other demands. Additionally, several CERP projects seek to improve water storage in South Florida, which is central to many communities as freshwater sources are threatened by the immense growth of the population, threatening already precarious infrastructure and resources, and by salt water intrusion into aquifers as they keep up with growing demand. South Floridians, and the nation, deserve the benefits of Everglades restoration, and allowing these projects to proceed as part of the conditionally authorized CERP will expedite USACE’s important work restoring one of our national treasures.

With this in mind, we respectfully propose the following language:

Section 601(d) of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (Public Law 106–541; 114 Stat. 2684) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ‘‘and subject to paragraph (3)’’ after ‘‘subsection (b) or (c)’’; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

‘‘(3) EXPEDITED PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION.—After completing a project implementation report prepared in accordance with subsections (f) and (h), the Secretary may carry out, without any further congressional authorization—

‘‘(A) any project identified in the Plan for which a project implementation report is completed that is in accordance with an integrated delivery schedule approved by the Chief of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, in consultation with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, if the report is completed not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of this paragraph; and

‘‘(B) any group of projects under the Plan that the Secretary determines will provide regional or watershed ecosystem or water supply benefits if the group of projects is constructed in accordance with a project implementation report approved by the Chief of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, in consultation with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of this paragraph.’’

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

[1] Public Law 106–541.

Sincerely,

Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress 

Mario Diaz-Balart
Member of Congress 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Member of Congress 

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

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