U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) recently praised the House passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). This bill, which still must be reconciled with a Senate version before becoming law, authorizes actions which will speed the Port Everglades dredging project that, when complete, would allow for larger cargo and cruise ships utilizing a widened Panama Canal.
It also authorizes additional projects to restore Florida’s River of Grass – the Everglades.
“Our nation’s infrastructure is critical to a thriving economy,” said Wasserman Schultz. “In Florida alone, civil works projects improve navigation at our many ports, assist with flood control, restore the Everglades ecosystem – and help protect our pristine beaches, which are central to our $65 billion a year tourism industry.”
Port Everglades is a major economic engine in South Florida. It generates nearly $26 billion a year in economic activity, but needs to be deepened from 42 to 48 feet, to allow it to be competitive in attracting deeper draft cargo ships in the post Panama Canal expansion market. In addition, the dredging and expansion project would create an estimated 7,000 new jobs in South Florida.
After considerable urging by the Florida Congressional Delegation, the Army Corps is close to completing a long-delayed dredge study to make this happen. Despite years of intense efforts, the final study was not yet ready for authorization by this year’s WRRDA bill. However, a provision included in the bill will allow a local government to pay upfront for projects prior to federal authorization and get partially reimbursed once the Army Corps approves projects and Congress passes another water bill. This will give the Port and Broward County the ability to move forward with the project once the Army Corps signs off on the plan.
The WRRDA bill also authorizes four additional, much-needed Everglades restoration components. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is the largest environmental restoration project in our nation’s history and after much delay, projects are now underway. These four projects will help keep up momentum in restoring our beloved River of Grass.
One of these new projects is the Broward Water Preserve, located in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s Congressional district. This project will help capture, store and distribute surface water runoff from the Everglades, and assist with flood protection and groundwater recharge.
“I’m thrilled that Congress is moving forward on several much needed projects for Florida. However, we need to start the next WRRDA bill in a timely fashion,” said Wasserman Schultz. “In Florida alone, there are four important projects almost ready for authorization, including the Port Everglades dredging and expansion effort, two other Florida ports projects, and the Central Everglades Planning Project. All four of these initiatives are critical to our state and should not have to wait many years to receive authorization simply because of either Congress’ or the Army Corps’ delay.”
Press Release, November 22, 2013