The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation to address the needs of the country’s water resources -- the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act -- a bill particularly critical for priorities in the Sunshine State.
Notably for Florida, the WIIN act contains much of the language originally passed in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, which was critical to restoring the Everglades and is supported by more than 60 member organizations of the Everglades Coalition. WRDA passed through both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins and the WIIN Act is the product of the resulting bicameral negotiations.
South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe in particular praised Congressman Tom Rooney for Thursday's success in the House.
"... (With) Rooney's continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades," O'Keefe said. "Approval of the federal water bill by the full Congress, followed by appropriating funding, is vital to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project.”
Title one of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act authorizes important flood protection projects, hurricane damage reduction programs, shoreline protection projects and environmental restoration projects. The bill also specifically authorizes the Central Everglades Planning Project which will improve the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water flows to the northern estuaries, central Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, while increasing water supply for municipalities, industry and agricultural users.
Directly impacting South Florida are these budget items:
- $976 million for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
- $308 million for Picayune Strand restoration project water flow upgrades
- $220 million for Port Everglades dredging
The WIIN Act also would authorize the Port Everglades project to alleviate algae blooms in the region, and conduct an assessment of oyster bed recovery in the Gulf damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
But there were other provisions in the bill important to Florida, and after most House members bolted when the vote was in, the Florida delegation weighed in on their personal priorities:
Republican Gus Bilirakis: “This past year, our community was hit by heavy flooding yet again. Much of the damage caused to homes, properties, and infrastructure could be avoided in the future if the Anclote River dredging project were completed. The WIIN Act we passed will promote public-private partnerships for dredging projects, which will help the Army Corps successfully finish them at lower costs and pave the way for completing the Anclote River project in Tarpon Springs.”
Republican Mario Diaz-Balart: "The bill contains several provisions that positively impact our southern Florida waterways and Everglades National Park. By investing in our nation’s ports, dams, and drinking water services, we are not only helping the local economy, but also the families across the country that rely on having easy access to safe drinking water."
Democrat Patrick Murphy: "The continued congressional support for CEPP authorization is a testament to the dedication and advocacy of our state's delegation and our entire community as to the importance of restoring the Everglades to send more clean water south. While I am disappointed to see partisan riders included in the WIIN Act instead of a bipartisan WRDA conference bill, Floridians should not have to wait another year for this project to be authorized. Our communities and waterways have suffered long enough, which is why I am calling on my colleagues in the Senate to act on this authorization before the 114th Congress adjourns. It's beyond time to get this done."
Democrat Ted Deutch: “After years of hard work, these water projects that are so impactful to our region will finally get the federal authorizations they desperately need. Port Everglades can now move forward with expansion plans, which will help bring more business and jobs to South Florida and make Fort Lauderdale an even larger point of entry for global shipments. Plans for restoring the Everglades can also proceed, fulfilling the moral responsibility on all of us to return our beautiful ecosystems to their natural state. This bill is not perfect, and I’m disappointed that the Republican leadership included offensive provisions at the last minute putting water resources at risk in drought-afflicted California. ..."
Republican Tom Rooney: "The bill also authorizes much needed investments in ports, channels, locks and dams that support our maritime transportation system, strengthening our competitiveness and ensuring our transportation system remains attractive to private sector job creation. Most importantly, the bill accomplishes these goals and many others in a fiscally responsible manner, off-setting new authorizations by allowing the authorizations of inactive projects to sunset."
Rooney said the WIIN Act also OKs programs to improve drinking water infrastructure across the nation, address control of coal combustion residuals, improve water storage and delivery for drought-stricken communities and improve environmental conservation and management.
Click here to get a better picture of the whole bill.
The bill now goes to the Senate and if passed, to the president's desk to be signed into law.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
READ MORE FROM SUNSHINE STATE NEWS