Florida lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate reintroduced legislation today to expedite future Everglades-restoration projects by streamlining the process from planning to construction of a project.
The legislation – introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) – would automatically authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward on any Everglades-restoration project that is ready to begin, without having to wait for additional approval from Congress.
“Restoring the Everglades is a top priority,” Nelson said. “There’s simply too much at stake here in Florida to wait around for Congress to pass a water bill every few years. This bill will allow the Corps to begin work on these projects as soon as they are ready.”
Under the current system, the Corps must inform Congress once they are ready to begin work on a project, and then wait for Congress to authorize that project in a broader water resources bill.
Between 2001 and 2016, Congress only passed three water resources bills, delaying several Everglades projects for years. The $1.9 billion Central Everglades Planning Project, for example, was deemed shovel-ready in Dec. 2014, but wasn’t authorized by Congress until Dec. 2016.
Three Everglades-restoration projects are currently in the planning stage: the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the Western Everglades Project, and the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project.
If Nelson’s bill is approved, construction on these three projects could begin as soon as the Corps deems them ready – instead of waiting years for Congress to authorize them in a future water bill.
Text of Nelson’s bill is available here.