Water Resources Development Act Passed The House With Mucarsel-Powell's Priorities Included, Taking Leaps To Modernize South Florida Water Infrastructure
U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, voted to pass the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Previously Mucarsel-Powell had advocated to remove the "new start" requirement that was delaying the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir -- a crucial part of Everglades Restoration -- and had passed the bill through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
WRDA provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water resources development projects and studies, as well as reforms and policy direction to the Corps for implementation of its civil works missions. A fact sheet on the bill can be found here.
"I am extremely proud to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, which delivers on my constituents' top environmental priorities: expediting Everglades restoration, increasing transparency about water flow, and improving the ecosystem in Florida Bay, which supports South Florida's economy and jobs in eco-tourism," said Mucarsel-Powell. "With today's bill, we make it very clear to the Corps that they must begin construction of the reservoir at its earliest opportunity, and they are not to wait for a "new start' designation, because my constituents need solutions now -- not 10 years from now. I look forward to continuing to work with the community on these critical environmental and economic issues."
A downloadable recording of Mucarsel-Powell's previous remarks in committee can be found HERE, and a copy of her remarks is below:
I would like to express my support for this bill. It includes one of my top priorities, which will speed up construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir -- a crucial part of Everglades Restoration.
We have been trying to restore the Everglades for two decades now. Since 2000, the intent of this Committee has always been to move forward with Everglades Restoration as a singular program. It was then, when Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project, or CERP.
Later in 2016, Congress authorized the Central Everglades Planning Project, or CEPP, which is a part of CERP. The projects that make up CEPP, including the EAA Reservoir, are the lynchpin of Everglades Restoration. This Committee never intended for each small project that comprises Everglades Restoration to be treated as a brand new project that needs a new approval -- or a QUOTE "new start" -- for construction to begin. But unfortunately, that's where we have found ourselves.
In 2018, Congress modified the authorization for the Reservoir to make it deeper and therefore able to store water.
Unfortunately, however, we learned earlier this year that the Army Corps of Engineers determined that because Congress modified the plans for the Reservoir, it was no longer part considered to be part of CEPP and would therefore be considered a brand new project that need to receive a "new start" designation.
Given how rare "new start" designations are, this wrongful interpretation threatened to delay the start of the reservoir for potentially years. This was frankly an absurd and harmful interpretation that I was determined to address in this bill, and I am grateful to the Committee leadership for working with me on it.
With today's bill, we make it very clear to the Corps that they must begin construction of the reservoir at its earliest opportunity, and they are not to wait for a "new start" designation.
I'd also like to thank the Chairman for including my provision to require the Corps to publish monthly reports which shows where water is flowing in South Florida. This data already exists in a raw form, but these reports will that synthesize data and will present the information in a manner that is easily understood by the general public, not just trained hydrologists and engineers. These will inform debates about Everglades Restoration moving forward.
We have been waiting long enough for Everglades Restoration. My constituents need solutions now -- not 10 years from now. With today's bill, we will help expedite the construction of the reservoir, bring more water south through the Everglades, and improve the ecosystem in Florida Bay.