Funding approved for dike repairs; EAA reservoir added to Water Resources Development Act

BELLE GLADE — Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings stopped by the Belle Glade Marina on Thursday to announce that federal funding has been approved to speed repairs to Herbert Hoover Dike, and that the federal share of funding for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir will be in this year’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

“We have been trying to speed up construction and completion of the dike,” Sen. Nelson said. Under the original schedule, the dike repairs would be completed by 2025. To complete the project sooner, an additional $727 million is needed.

As part of the 2016 Florida Senate Bill 10, the State of Florida pledged to spend $200 million to speed dike repairs.

On Thursday, Sen. Nelson announced that about a half-million dollars of federal money has been pledged.

The money for the expedited dike repairs will come from the $80 billion budgeted in hurricane disaster funds, he explained. He said they were able to successfully argue that the dike repairs are critical to the safety of those who live in the Glades should a hurricane hit the lake.

Sen. Nelson said he was able to put a “placeholder” in the WRDA for the EAA reservoir funding, and when the House of Representatives bill and the Senate bill are reconciled, the EAA funding will be in the bill.

Congressman Hastings said the Florida delegation worked together to get the funding for these projects.

He added that while it is important to complete dike repairs and also to add water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, there is more to be done.

He said they also need projects to clean up the water before it goes into the lake.

Officials from Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee, Moore Haven and Clewiston also stressed the needs for jobs in the area, and asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make sure local residents have a chance to be hired for the two projects. They offered to make sure the local workforce has the needed training.

“We need to train people in Glades, Hendry and Palm Beach counties in order to be able to work in these projects,” agreed Congressman Hastings.

Sen. Nelson, who also stopped in Fort Myers and Stuart on Thursday, said he was pleased to see firsthand that the algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee is not as bad as it has been depicted in the media.

“As I flew over the lake, I was glad to see there was not algae in 80 percent of the lake, as I was led to believe,” Sen. Nelson noted.

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