Eight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District projects that will provide critical infrastructure to local ports and ecosystem restoration efforts in Florida received approval as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, which was signed into law yesterday.
Four navigation projects and four Everglades restoration projects were included in the bill that, in total, authorized 34 Corps projects across the nation.
“Receiving authorization for these projects demonstrates the valuable work we’re doing here in Florida and the quality work the Jacksonville District continues to deliver,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District commander. “Congressional authorization is the first step. It now makes these projects eligible for funding during the appropriations process. After receiving appropriations, we can then finalize designs, partnership agreements and contract actions that will enable us to start construction.”
The eight Jacksonville District projects that have received congressional authorization are:
– Jacksonville Harbor’s Mile Point Project: Will improve navigation safety by reducing the impacts of ebb tide crosscurrents at the confluence of the St. Johns River with the Intracoastal Waterway;
– Jacksonville Harbor Project: Will deepen the Jacksonville Harbor channel to allow passage of larger ships, thereby reducing transportation costs and improving navigation safety;
– Canaveral Harbor Project: Will deepen Canaveral Harbor to improve navigation safety and allow passage of larger ships;
– Lake Worth Inlet Project: Will widen and deepen Lake Worth Inlet to increase overall port efficiency and safety and generate transportation cost savings;
– Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir Project: Will capture and store basin stormwater runoff, along with a portion of water discharged from Lake Okeechobee; Water will be slowly released into the Caloosahatchee River;
– C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project: Will preserve clean water for Everglades National Park and restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay;
– Broward County Water Preserve Areas: Will reduce seepage loss from Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A/3B to the C-11 and C-9 basins and capture, store and distribute surface water runoff from the western C-11 Basin that has been discharged into WCA 3A/3B;
– Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project: Will improve the ecology of Biscayne Bay, including the freshwater wetlands, tidal creeks and near-shore habitat by redirecting freshwater runoff that is currently being discharged through man-made canals directly into Biscayne Bay.
All eight of these project’s final reports, known as Chief of Engineers, or Chief’s reports, were submitted to Congress for authorization between 2011 and 2014. One of the district’s broadly-supported ecosystem restoration projects, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), is scheduled to complete its Chief’s Report in summer 2014, making it ineligible for the current legislation. However, under this timeline, the massive restoration project aiming to restore the central portion of the central Everglades will be completed in less than three years since its initiation in 2011.
“I’ve heard concerns about CEPP not making it into this legislation; however, do not lose sight of the fact that four important Everglades restoration projects have just been authorized,” said Dodd. “Two of which, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir and Broward County Water Preserve Areas projects, are ones that CEPP will build off of. So, although CEPP isn’t included in this bill for authorization, it will not hinder our ability to move forward with projects that need to be constructed prior to CEPP implementation.”
A project’s inclusion in WRRDA does not guarantee funding in the appropriations process. Still, getting a project into an authorization measure is a necessary first step to acquire funding in a later spending bill. With these eight projects authorized, they now move one step closer towards implementation and open up the queue for additional planning efforts that will be delivering completed Chief’s Reports in the months ahead, such as CEPP, for authorization in a future WRRDA bill.
Press Release, June 11, 2014