Trump’s proposed budget keeps Everglades restoration moving
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
February 11, 2020
Tampa Bay Times
Half a century ago, there was a failed effort to build the world’s largest airport on the edge of Everglades National Park in what is now the Big Cypress National Preserve. To put it in perspective, the planned Big Cypress Jetport would have been five times the size of New York’s JFK Airport.
Clearly, things have changed for the better. Instead of laying tarmac over 39 square miles of a one-of-a-kind ecosystem, we are now working to restore the Everglades to its original beauty and function. Pursuing this goal is one of my highest priorities.
Everglades restoration is the single best way to improve Florida’s water quality and environment. Now, the White House has worked with us to achieve exactly that by proposing $250 million in annual funding in its 2021 budget to finance the construction of new Everglades infrastructure as part of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration. The clunky name aside, the restoration encompasses dozens of projects focused on improving water quality and solving the most persistent environmental issues across the region.
The restoration program and associated Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan aims to combat these issues and reinvigorate the Everglades, with specific goals including the enlargement of regional water storage capacity, restoration of natural water flows to Everglades National Park, and a reduction in harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Last February, I asked the president for an annual commitment of $200 million from the federal government. Buoyed by similar calls from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott and the state’s congressional delegation, President Donald Trump understood the importance of the effort and joined the fight for annual funding.
And now, this month, Trump added an additional $50 million to his annual budget proposal to fund Everglades restoration. If approved by Congress — and I will use my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to make it happen — this surge in funding will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue building overdue reservoirs and stormwater treatment areas, restore wetland features along Biscayne Bay, and design the next suite of projects in the construction queue.
Most importantly, it will allow the corps to break ground on the Central Everglades Planning Project, which I have long championed, this year. Once completed, the project will redirect, clean, and deliver significant increases in freshwater flows under a newly raised Tamiami Trail into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. It will be the single most impactful effort in our quest to restore the Everglades.
Work will soon begin on spending bills for 2021, and I will continue to advance my legislation designed to rehabilitate Florida’s extensive network of coral reefs, reduce our vulnerability to harmful algal blooms, and protect our coast from offshore drilling.
None of this will happen overnight, but with our recent progress, we’re finally on a path to completion within our lifetimes, and I will not let us slide back into complacency. The restoration of our Everglades is too important to leave unfinished.
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