President Donald Trump has apparently changed his mind about funding the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir and other Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects. On Monday, the president expressed his support for increased funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in a tweet.
“My administration will be fighting for $200 million for the Army Corps Everglades restoration work this year. Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP! Good for Florida and good for the environment,” President Trump tweeted May 13, at 4:32 p.m.
In March, the president released a budget that cut funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The president’s original proposal included $63 million for Florida’s wetlands projects, including the C-43 and C-44 reservoir projects and continued work on the Kissimmee River Restoration, but no funding for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had some funding in the fiscal 2019 budget to start engineering and design on the reservoir, but faced a looming funding shortfall in 2020. The corps has estimated the engineering and design for the EAA reservoir will take two to three years. The massive reservoir will cover about 10,100 acres and be encircled by a dike 37 feet high. The project also includes a 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area (STA).
According to SFWMD, together with other authorized projects, the EAA Storage Reservoir will send an annual average of approximately 370,000 additional acre-feet of water south to the Everglades “that will be protected by rule or reservation to benefit the natural system.” It will also reduce the number of damaging discharge events from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries by 63 percent when used in conjunction with authorized projects, according to the SFWMD reports.
Florida officials have been lobbying the president for more funding for the Everglades projects since January. Earlier this year, all 27 Florida members of the House of Representatives signed a letter asking Congress and the president to fund the $200 million requested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In February, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also signed a letter that urged the president to increase funding for the Everglades project.
Appeals for increased federal funding continued after the president visited the Herbert Hoover Dike in March.
On May 9, the newly appointed members of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board asked Congress for more funding.
“There is strong bipartisan support for restoring America’s Everglades, and this world-renowned ecosystem depends on a sustained $200 million in annual federal funding for restoration,” state letters signed by all SFWMD Governing Board members transmitted May 9 to the U.S. House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. “The federal-state partnership to restore America’s Everglades was agreed to nearly two decades ago and is critical to protecting this unique national treasure and the state’s water resources for millions of residents and visitors. Unfortunately, federal funding of the cost-share for these critical restoration projects has not kept pace with the state’s contributions, but we are hopeful that your support of Everglades restoration funding will make a difference.”
The letters ask the members of the congressional appropriations subcommittees to support the highest possible funding for the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration line item and to support $200 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Account in next year’s federal budget.
“Enhanced federal funding complementing years of state funding will accelerate the design and construction of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir to divert and clean Lake Okeechobee releases and increase water deliveries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay,” the letters read.