President Trump on Tuesday signed into law America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), also known as WRDA. WRDA includes key provisions secured by Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, which authorizes critical U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects related to Everglades restoration, beach renourishment, flood control, navigation, and environmental protection. The bill was never in doubt in Congress: The Senate passed it 99-1 on Oct. 10.
“President Trump’s signing of the WRDA is an important step toward solving Florida’s water challenges.” Rubio said in a prepared statment. “This water infrastructure bill, which includes key projects that will address Florida’s growing water challenges, authorizes the new EAA Storage Reservoir that will reduce harmful discharges to Florida’s coasts and enhance the promise of Everglades restoration. I thank my colleagues for advancing this bipartisan effort and President Trump for signing it into law.”
The provisions Rubio supported that are included in the bill are as follows:
- Authorization of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir to be built south of Lake Okeechobee (Section 1308).
- Authorization for St. Lucie County’s Coastal Risk Management Project for beach renourishment of severely eroded shoreline (Subsection 1401(3)).
- Authorization for St. John’s County’s Coastal Storm Risk Management Project in South Ponte Vedra, Vilano and Summer Haven Beaches (Subsection 1401(3)).
- Modified authorization for the Kissimmee River Restoration Project to credit the South Florida Water Management District for in-kind work the Army Corps previously approved (Section 1309).
- Deauthorization of the L-212 Levee, as requested by the St. Johns River Water Management District (Section 1310).
- Language directing the Army Corps to expedite completion of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to coincide with completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation (Section 1106).
- Language directing the Army Corps to provide technical assistance when requested and paid for by a non-federal interest (Section 1152).
- Reauthorization and extension of the non-federal implementation pilot program to identify cost-saving project delivery alternatives for non-Federal interests to carry out the design and construction of projects for flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction, ecosystem restoration, and coastal harbor and channel and inland harbor navigation (Section 1137).
- Language establishing a process to deauthorize inactive federal projects that are no longer viable for construction (Section 1301); and to extend the period for automatic deauthorization of studies and projects in the 2014 WRDA bill to ensure that complex projects, including several in Florida, that should be implemented in multiple phases over a period of several years, are excluded from a deauthorization (Section 1330).
- Language providing enhanced flexibility for addressing in-kind work in project partnership agreements, which would allow the South Florida Water Management District to secure deserved financial credit for state work on Everglades restoration projects (Section 1147).
South Florida leaders have commended Rubio’s leadership and work to restore the Everglades and improve the quality of Florida’s waterways.Rubio's efforts on behalf of Everglades projects during the last couple of years have been collaborative:
-- Ahead of the vote on the Kendall Parkway Project, Rubio urged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to demonstrate a clear commitment to protecting Everglades restoration ahead of the vote on the Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP). He also released a video outlining his conditions for supporting the project.
-- Last month Rubio teamed up with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Congressman Brian Mast to write language authorizing the EAA Storage Reservoir, to be built south of Lake Okeechobee, which was included in the WRDA. In fact, Mast's effort was particularly heroic.
-- In August, Rubio announced his objections to the Kendall Parkway Project until Everglades protection was guaranteed. He also urged Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. to help deliver relief to Florida communities plagued with algal blooms by bringing WRDA for a vote in the Senate as soon as possible.
-- In July, Rubio called the delays in the Army Corp’s new Everglades restoration schedule “unacceptable.”
-- Following his June request, Rubio welcomed an announcement by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it had approved the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) Post-Authorization Change Report (PACR), allowing Congress to consider authorizing construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges to coastal communities.
-- In June, the Senate passed a Rubio measure that reasserts the original intention for Everglades restoration efforts to redirect Lake Okeechobee discharges towards the Central Everglades. Rubio also secured key funding that enhances water quality and seagrass monitoring to assess the impact of discharges, and protected the Interior Department’s Everglades restoration budget from unjustified cuts.
-- In May, Rubio secured a provision expediting design work on critical reservoirs to collect and clean Lake Okeechobee discharges and local runoff before release into the St. Lucie River and ultimately into the Indian River Lagoon. Rubio also secured funding in the Senate FY19 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill for critical Everglades restoration projects administered by the Army Corps.
-- In March, Rubio urged the Army Corps to support Florida water projects and led the South Florida delegation in urging to expedite its review of CEPP’s Post-Authorization Change Report (PACR) submitted by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Rubio also urged the Army Corps to work with SFWMD to study, design, and construct a new flood and storm damage reduction project that addresses seepage and flood risks along the boundary of the eastern Everglades in Miami-Dade County.
-- In February, Rubio urged the Army Corps of Engineers to use supplemental disaster funding to complete work on the Herbert Hoover Dike. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rubio was able to secure Lake Okeechobee relief funding in the disaster supplemental. Rubio raised inclusion of the EAA Storage Reservoir as his top priority for the 2018 WRDA bill to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
-- In January, Rubio requested assistance from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to expedite critical Everglades restoration work. Rubio also outlined his support for the Strazzulla Marsh-Snail Farm land exchange to the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee.
-- In 2016, Rubio’s efforts ultimately convinced former Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe to support CEPP. Following the Senate’s passage of WRDA in September 2016, and Rubio urging key House and Senate committee leaders of both parties to retain important Florida projects in the final version of the bill, CEPP authorization was ultimately signed into law as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (Public Law 114-322).