House, Senate Committees OK Water Bill with Everglades Reservoir

The 2018 Water Resources Development Act has just cleared both the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with language including the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir and a Post-Authorization Change Report to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CEPP) that will enable construction of the project.

The measures will authorize construction of the project once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes its review of the plan submitted by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Funding for the federal share of the cost will still have to be appropriated by Congress.

“This is a great day for Florida and the Everglades,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, which has helped spearhead the project.

Once constructed, the 23-foot-deep, 10,100-acre reservoir will store up to 78.2 billions of excess water from Lake Okeechobee, significantly alleviating the need for toxic discharges of lake water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, Eikenberg said. In addition, a 6,500-acre man-made marsh will clean the water so it can flow south to nourish the Everglades and Florida Bay.

“We have moved the ball far downfield,” Eikenberg said, “but we are not yet in the End Zone.”

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has committed to expedite its review of the project, as well it should, since this is one of the very few projects in the nation where the non-federal partner – the state of Florida – has already put its share of the funding on the table.”

Eikenberg noted that the Florida Legislature last year passed Senate Bill 10, which set aside Florida’s 50 percent share of the cost for the $1.4 billion project.

“We are indebted to the leadership of Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Carper (D-DE), U.S. Representatives Bill Shuster (R-PA), Garret Graves (R-LA) and Brian Mast (R-FLA), for advancing a placeholder amendment that will allow the Everglades Reservoir to be included in the Committee’s bill,” Eikenberg said.

The House Committee approved the bill this morning by a voice vote. The Senate Environment and Public Works approved a companion measure – also including the Everglades Reservoir as a placeholder – yesterday by a vote of 21-0, Eikenberg said.

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