No issue is more important to our District than clean water and a healthy environment. We will work to obtain the federal funding necessary to clean up the Okeechobee waterway and restore our Everglades.
What Congressman Francis Rooney has done since taking office Jan 3rd, 2017?
Congressman Rooney joined the Everglades and Estuary Caucus. Both bi-partisan caucuses focus their efforts on Florida's Everglades, restoration efforts, and estuaries
-Congressman Francis Rooney Leads entire Florida delegation letter in support of the Everglades to the President. Congressman Rooney was able to convince the entire delegation behind one common message. Letter Attached Here
-Congressman Rooney provided testimony on water quality testimony with representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and local Florida governments, to address his colleagues in the Florida Delegation during a hearing.
-Congressman Rooney provided testimony on water quality to the the Florida State House again bringing the importance of the Everglades to the State Capital.
That testimony here:
-Congressman Rooney Testifies before House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies - to Chairman Simpson and Ranking Member Kaptur
Watch that testimony here
-Congressman Rooney leads a tour of the Everglades with Chairman Ken Calvert. Chairman Calvert is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment for appropriations. This tour highlighted the importance of funding projects which have already been approved and designed. Story is here
-Congressman Rooney provided an update on water quality efforts (and legislation including flood insurance) to the Lee County Commissioners
-Congressman Rooney hosted and met with members of the Everglades Foundation Board in Washington, DC. Congressman Rooney stated, “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.
-Congressman Francis Rooney led House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on a tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed, including Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) projects and Everglades National Park. The tour highlighted the importance of the watershed, and funding projects which have already been approved and designed. (Story Here)
-Congressman Francis Rooney met with representatives of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss funding of Lake Okeechobee and Everglades Restoration projects which have been authorized, but not yet funded, through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
-Congressman Francis Rooney meets with President Trump to Discuss Everglades Restoration and the Fight Against Radical Islamic Terrorism. Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney sends a letter to the House Interior Comittee on the importance of Everglades Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart host a press conference on Everglades funding Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney talks with Governor Scott after Governor Scott meets with President Trump on Herbert Hoover Dike Story Here.
-President Trump annouces accelaration of the Herbert Hoover Dike Repairs, a major victory Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney introduces legislation to make permanent the moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney met with Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and fellow coastal members of Congress, for a discussion of the draft proposed offshore drilling plan Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney will lead a tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee watershed. The tour will include Chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Mike Simpson, Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Deputy District Commander for South Florida of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Reynolds, and Paul Warner, Principal Scientist, Office of Federal Policy & Coordination of the South Florida Water Management District. Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney statement on funding for Herbert Hoover Dike repairs "“It is encouraging to see an increase in funding for Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation from $82 million last year to $96 million this year. While there remains much work toward Lake Okeechobee Watershed Everglades restoration, this is a step in the right direction." Story Here
-Congressman Francis Rooney statement on amendment to prohibit funds for oil exploration and drilling in Eastern Gulf. Story Here.
That testimony here:
-Congressman Francis Rooney’s statement on meeting with Army Corp of Engineers - Congressman Rooney met with Colonel Jason Kirk, District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), regarding the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) and releases from Lake Okeechobee. Unfortunately, even before Subtropical Storm Alberto, the level of the lake was at 14 ft. – 3 ft. above normal for this time of the year. These levels are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, and are closely monitored to protect the structural integrity of the Dike and the safety of the surrounding communities. The good news is that the USACE has now reduced releases to less than 3000 cfs even though water levels have continued to rise in the lake, and they are working with state and local officials to move water south. Story Here.
-The United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) announced an expedited timeline for repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. The Office of Management and Budget plans to fund $514 million for the repairs via a supplemental funding package that the House Appropriations Committee approved following devastating 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. The USACE will use this funding to complete Dike repairs by 2022, at least three years ahead of schedule. Congressman Francis Rooney statement on funding and repairs to Herbert Hoover Dike. Story Here.
-Congressman Francis Rooney statement on federal water quality efforts.
"It is important that all levels of government, Federal, State, and local, work together in the short term to redirect as much water as possible from Lake Okeechobee to the south. This will reduce harmful discharges into the Caloosahatchee River and stop destroying our estuaries and bays.
"Unfortunately for all of us, for 18 years, since 2000, Congress has failed to deliver on building out the projects authorized in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), or in completing repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike which would permit retention of more water in the lake and avoid massive discharges into the Caloosahatchee. In 18 months of working in Congress I have been laser-focused on our water quality in Southwest Florida, and have worked hard to find every possible avenue of funding to complete CERP projects and expedite completion of the dike repairs – and we are now getting results...." Full Statement here.
-Congressman Rooney votes against bill that would harm Florida’s fishing industry - H.R. 200 - Story here.
-Congressman Rooney update on Federal water quality efforts - Full statement here
-Congressman Rooney makes request for White House to declare State of Emergency for toxic algae crisis "calling on the administration to formally declare a State of Emergency for Florida." Story Here
-Congressman Rooney announces federal and state administrators will visit Southwest Florida to address toxic algae crisis. Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and South Florida Water Management District confirmed that they will visit Southwest Florida in response to Congressman Rooney’s call for action. On Tuesday, Congressman Rooney urged administrators of key federal agencies to visit the area - to assess damage from toxic algae, meet with area stakeholders, and provide recommendations on how their agencies may assist. Congressman Rooney stated, “I am encouraged that these federal agencies which have the ability to provide help for our ongoing toxic algae crisis have responded quickly to our request. Seeing the devastation in-person and having a dialogue with those directly affected is critical to understanding the urgency of providing resources to solve the immediate needs of our community.” Background – On August 15th, Congressman Rooney and agency officials will tour areas hardest hit by toxic algae blooms then travel to Fort Myers Beach for a working session with members of area chambers of commerce, fishing, real estate, tourism and hospitality industries. The meeting will conclude with a press conference on Fort Myers Beach. Times and specific locations will be available in the coming days. Story Here
- Congressman Francis Rooney hosted key decision-makers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in Southwest Florida to see the damage caused during the ongoing water crisis. Congressman Rooney showed the agencies’ representatives the toxic blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River to highlight the dangers associated with the algal blooms, including its effect on the community, and the need for immediate action in removing the algae and eliminating its sources. The site visit was followed by a working session between the agency officials and local stakeholders, including business owners and environmental advocates. Hearing from constituents whose health and economic livelihoods are negatively impacted by the blue-green algae will further underscore the urgency in solving this crisis for Southwest Florida. Prior, Congressman Rooney, along with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, toured the Herbert Hoover Dike. The visit highlighted the long-term issues for water quality and stressed the importance of speeding up rehabilitation of the Dike. Congressman Rooney has worked to secure $514.2 million in supplemental funding this year for expedited repairs. Congressman Rooney stated, “Improving our water quality for both the short- and long-term has been my priority since I was elected to represent Southwest Florida in Washington. I would like to thank the key decision-makers from federal and state agencies for traveling to our community to see the crisis first-hand. We must all work together on eliminating these toxic blue-green algal blooms.” Story Here
-Congressman Rooney applauds the Small Business Administration (SBA) approval of disaster declaration for our area. See the full story here
Congressman Rooney requests House appropriations subcommittee support Senate funding to investigate impact of toxic algae. Congressman Rooney submitted a request to Ken Calvert, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, to support Senate funding levels for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor and investigate harmful algal blooms. Congressman Rooney stated, “This funding is imperative to investigating the harmful toxic algal blooms that have been occurring in Southwest Florida this year. The research these funds support would look at the health impacts of exposure and develop new ways to identify, monitor and track algal blooms. These blooms are impacting our tourist economy, devastating our environment and have implications on our residents’ health.” See the full story here.
Congressman Rooney wrote an op-ed about the need to remove 'excess nitrogen from our waters' Read that op-ed here.
In-depth Explanation of the Issue
Federal-State funded Everglades restoration projects
Many laws have been passed at the state and federal level directed at cleaning up and restoring the Everglades and preserving adjacent waterways, including the Caloosahatchee Estuary, St Lucie Estuary and Florida Bay.
The original Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was approved by Congress in 2000, calling for 68 projects at a cost of $7.8 billion (now estimated to cost over $16 billion). Today, we have unfunded projects from the federal water bills (Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA) 2007, 2014 and 2016) that will cost approximately $6 billion. The state is approximately one billion dollars ahead of the federal government in funding land acquisition and implementation of CERP that are supposed to be 50/50 cost shared.
The C-43 Reservoir on the west coast at Labelle is an example of a federally authorized project being implemented by the State, despite a lack of federal funding. This project is critical to reducing the frequency and intensity of damaging freshwater discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. Therefore, the state has commenced construction of this $500 million reservoir which will hold 170,000 acre-feet of water from the C-43 Basin stormwater runoff and Lake Okeechobee.
Projects completed to reduce phosphorus from flowing into the Everglades
Recently, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) constructed the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB), just north of Storm Treatment Area (STA) 3/4, which can store 60,000 acre-feet of water. The FEB holds the water until it can be delivered more slowly into STA 3/4 and STA 2 and then ultimately released into the Water Conservation Areas (WCA), Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. As water flows through these STAs, the phosphorus is removed through naturally occurring biological, chemical and physical processes.
The average phosphorous concentration of water discharged from STA-3/4 during Water Year 2016 (May 2015 – April 2016) was 12 parts per billion (ppb), a 91 percent reduction compared to the inflow concentration of 138 ppb. Due to collaborative efforts, including agriculture, all of the Everglades National Park is now compliant with the state water quality standard for phosphorus, with phosphorus concentrations below 10 parts per billion (ppb).
Status of critical restoration projects now underway or in the works
In WRDA-2016, Congress authorized completion of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project at a cost of $626 million, which will restore over 55,000 acres of over-drained wetlands in southwest Florida and help to improve the quality, timing and distribution of freshwater flows to the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge. WRDA-2016 also authorized the $1.9 billion Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), which will construct a series of features to allow redirecting up to 210,000 acre-feet of Lake Okeechobee regulatory discharges southward for storage, treatment and delivery to the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park. This project will also help to reduce damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. CEPP includes several features, including backfilling of canals, removal of levees and roads that impede the flow of water south and construction of another 15,000-acre FEB, A-2, just west of the A-1 FEB.
There are still several unfinished projects from WRDA 2007 and 2014 and previous legislation, too, including Kissimmee River Restoration, C-111 South Dade and the Indian River Lagoon South projects. In addition to restoring the ecological integrity of the Kissimmee River and floodplain wetlands, completion of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project will provide 130,000 acre-feet of dynamic water storage to help control Lake Okeechobee water levels and restore water flow through thousands of acres of floodplain wetlands to improve water quality in Lake Okeechobee. Since the lake fills up six times as fast as it can be drained, these projects all around the watershed are necessary. Flow projects southward, alone, will not solve the problem.
Completion of bridge construction along the eastern portion of Tamiami Trail (US-41) is also critical to restoring more natural flows to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. A one-mile bridge was completed in 2013; however, another 5.5 miles of bridge construction is authorized and remains to be constructed. A 2.6-mile bridge is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion in 2020. The 2.6-mile bridge design and construction is being cost-shared 50-50 by the state and federal government, though Congress authorized the 5.5 miles of bridging at a 100% federal cost.
The Corps of Engineers needs to reinforce and strengthen the Herbert Hoover Dike to ensure safety of South Florida residents in the vicinity of the dike. This critical reparation will also temporarily hold water in times of excessive rains and discharge it more slowly than last summer’s emergency discharges, which damaged estuaries and stirred up pollution.
Funding system-wide projects critical to reaching restoration goals and reducing discharges into estuaries
The bottom line is that restoration of the Everglades and the Okeechobee Watershed -- and controlling excessive discharges into our rivers and bays -- is a complex and expensive challenge. It involves projects all around the lake and along both rivers, east and west, as well as the southward flow projects.
Congressman Rooney is working every day to make this case to the federal government including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, House and Senate Appropriations Leaders and the White House. The federal government needs to fund what they have committed to fund in these authorization laws and I am narrowly focused on the federal roles and the existing plans for executing key restoration projects called for through CERP.
Through Legacy Florida and Amendment 1, the State has funded substantially more than their one-half share and remains willing to make state-owned public lands available for construction of restoration projects. The State also is continuing to invest in collaborative projects such as the C-43 Reservoir at Labelle on the west coast and the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area near Stuart on the east coast as well as others.
It would be best for our community to be united and focused on funding the projects now authorized and to complete the priority projects agreed upon by the state and federal governments included in CERP’s Integrated Delivery Schedule.
Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues