Members of Congress ask Trump to fund CERP

OKEECHOBEE — The Florida Congressional delegation urged President Donald Trump to include projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) in his Fiscal Year 2018 budget, in a letter dated Feb. 3.

“As you prepare your budget for Fiscal year 2018, we request that you strongly support Everglades restoration projects, especially those within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP). Both the Corps and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are charged with the critical task of restoring the Everglades and reinvigorating its ecosystems. Your attention to these issues is appreciated and we look forward to working with your administration on them,” they wrote.

“The Everglades ecosystem spans across 16 counties and 164 cities in Florida. It has a $2 trillion economic impact and 55 percent of the real estate value in the state of Florida is tied to it. During South Florida’s annual wet season, roughly 60 inches of rainfall provides for ample water that replenishes the aquifers that provide drinking water to 8.1 million people in South Florida. This unique ecosystem exerts a dominate influence over Florida’s hydrological cycle and seasonal weather patterns,” the letter continues.

“However, the system is now less than half of its original size and human impacts have degraded the quality of the water. More than that, Lake Okeechobee now fills up six times faster than it can be drained, resulting in massive discharges into the surrounding watershed. Extremes in water levels being too high or too low in the lake produce very different consequences. Too high and untreated discharges escape to the coasts and wreak havoc on saline environments; too low and salt water encroaches on brackish ecosystems, killing flora and fauna. Balance must be restored to this delicate region.

“Most recently, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016 authorized two CERP projects that now await further action by the Corps and the DOI. These include the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) as well as additional authorizations to complete the Picayune Strand project. These projects are an important step in achieving more optimal water flow and we encourage immediate funding for these projects. The CERP is a multi-year and multi-phase project that competes for funding from Corps projects across the country. The Everglades deserve your attention and support and we ask that you provide the necessary resources to restore the region,” the letter states.

The letter was by signed by members of Congress Francis Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hastings, Vern Buchanan, Gus M. Bilirakis, John Rutherford, Matt Gaetz, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ileana Ros-Lehitnen, Ted S. Yoho, Lois Frankel, Bill Posey, Thomas Rooney, Carlos Curbelo, Theodore Deutch, Daniel Webster, Charlie Crist, Ron DeSantis, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Dennis Ross, Al Lawson Jr., Val Demmings, Kathy Castor, Dr. Neal Dunn and Frederica Wilson.

“I, along with the entire Florida Delegation call on the President of the United States to support Everglades Restoration projects in his fiscal year 2018 Budget,” said Congressman Francis Rooney, who led the effort. “The Everglades have a far ranging impact to the entire State of Florida and to the country. Our economy has been decimated. Businesses have closed. We all have a vested interest in the Everglades. I am pleased that the entire Florida delegation has come together on such an important issue.”

“I am pleased to join my Florida delegation colleagues to advocate for Everglades restoration funding in the President’s first budget. As a senior member of the Appropriations committee, I continue to prioritize projects within the Central Everglades Restoration Program (CERP), and welcome support from the executive branch. We are fortunate to have this natural treasure in our state, and must do everything we can to preserve it for future generations,” stated Congressman Mario Diaz Balart.

“The Everglades is one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, and while much work has been done to repair this national treasure, there is still much work left to do. Through years of bipartisan efforts to authorize and appropriate critical infrastructure projects, we continue to make great strides in Everglades restoration. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Everglades Caucus, I remain committed to restoring the Everglades ecosystem. Along with my colleagues in the Florida Congressional delegation, I urge the Administration to continue this bipartisan effort to provide the resources needed to fulfill our commitment to the Everglades,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings.

“Discharges from Lake Okeechobee have become a serious health concern,” Congressman Buchanan said. “We need to take action to protect Florida’s waters and fragile ecosystems.”

“There are few infrastructure projects more vital to Florida than restoring the Everglades. The state of this unique ecosystem directly influences the health of Florida’s coasts and our water supply, and exerts a tremendous impact on our economy. Revitalizing and preserving this environmental jewel is an obligation we dearly owe to future generations. Our letter urges the President to honor his campaign pledge to protect and restore this essential piece of Florida’s natural environment,” stated Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

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