Biden Seeking More Everglades Conservation Money

President Joe Biden (D) is seeking more than $400 million in additional Florida Everglades conservation dollars on top of the over $1 billion already set to be spent on the ecosystem this year. In a budget proposal released to the public, it would be the largest restoration investment in American history.

“This iconic American landscape provides drinking water supply for more than 8 million Floridians, supports the State’s $90 billion tourism economy, and is home to dozens of endangered or threatened species,” the budget report said.

A large chunk of the funding will go to the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project, a priority for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Last month, DeSantis called on Biden to accelerate the reservoir project.

“The EAA Reservoir project is the crown jewel of Everglades restoration, providing relief from harmful discharges to the estuaries and sending more clean water south to the Everglades. Advancing the state’s portion of this project is our number one priority, but the federal government has stalled, most recently failing to dedicate a single cent from its infrastructure package to its portion of this project. The Biden Administration must reverse course and dedicate the funds necessary to timely advance their portion of this important project. Florida is doing its part and the Biden administration needs to follow the path blazed by the Trump administration and provide the promised federal support.”

The reservoir project has become a priority to assist in reducing algal blooms and nutrient-rich discharges from Lake Okeechobee that travel down to the Everglades. In fact, according to a state report released in January, algal blooms have a likelihood of becoming worse leading to the potential of more severe water quality issues.

Last year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection denied an oil drilling proposal citing the threat of Florida’s water quality being too big of a risk to permit the drilling.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is facilitating the reservoir project, it has had to deal with lawsuits including from Florida’s major sugar growers who said the proposed water levels in the reservoir would be too low for them to continue growing crops. The sugar growers said the reservoir levels from 20 years ago should be standard.

The Corps did indicate that the lawsuit would not slow construction, and the Corps said to The Florida Capital Star last month it would be finishing its portion of the reservoir ahead of schedule sometime next year.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said the efforts of Republican and Democrat policy-making have led to the advancement of the reservoir project.

“The water has to flow south and the money has to flow south. We’re seeing it come from D.C., we’re seeing it from Tallahassee,” Eikenberg said. “This is how it should work.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.



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