Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) funding approved by Congress

OKEECHOBEE — The United States House of Representatives Thursday passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which includes funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

The WIIN Act of 2016 is a comprehensive water bill that addresses the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection and other water resources infrastructure.

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. WRDA passed through both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins and the WIIN Act is the product of the resulting bicameral negotiations.

“With Congressman Tom Rooney’s continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “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 flood protection projects, hurricane damage reduction programs, shoreline protection projects and environmental restoration projects.

The bill 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.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CEPP will identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

This legislation will return Congress to the regular order of authorizing water projects and then appropriating necessary funds, allowing lawmakers to identify and prioritize which projects need completing instead of ceding that control to the administration. This will improve congressional oversight while also increasing local participation in project selection. Also, this bill 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, this 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.

Additionally, this legislation authorizes 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.

“I am pleased the House passed this legislation that is vital to our water infrastructure. This bill includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, containing several provisions that positively impact our Southern Florida waterways and Everglades National Park,” said Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25). “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. The legislation also focuses on reducing the backlog of projects the Army Corps of Engineers have, saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the most important and necessary projects to be prioritized.

“I congratulate Chairman Shuster on the passage of this bill, and I look forward to continue working with him to preserve Florida’s natural treasure for future generations.”

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 includes the following items that directly impact South Florida:

• $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.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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