Congressman Francis Rooney statement on federal water quality efforts
Washington, D.C.- Today, Congressman Rooney issued the following statement on efforts to restore Southwest Florida’s water quality.
"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.
"On Friday the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced an expedited timeline for repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike. I met personally with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney a couple of weeks ago and urged him to direct funds from the hurricane disaster relief program to the Herbert Hoover Dike repair project.
"Joined with $206 million recently appropriated by the House, a total of $514 million will be set aside to complete the dike repairs by 2022 instead of the end of the decade. Every year saved completing these repairs is a year that harmful releases into our ecosystem will stop sooner.
"In addition to the dike, I have successfully fought for funding to complete CERP projects. We have united the Florida delegation like never before and I have personally brought House leadership to Southwest Florida to see the watershed first hand. Now we are seeing results here, as well - a record $115 million set aside for CERP in the FY2019 budget. With these dollars, construction will begin on the EAA reservoir to store water south of the lake and move it into the treatment basins and ultimately into Florida Bay. Several projects which are nearly complete, including the Picayune Strand, will finally be finished. Although these recent successes at the federal level will not solve our water quality issues as quickly as we all want, they will solve them PERMANENTLY.
"I have spent a lifetime navigating and sailing these waters, and have taken multiple tours to assess the health of our Southwest Florida ecosystem. Years of neglect and inaction by Washington’s career politicians have put us behind and added to our problems. I am encouraged by what we have accomplished in the last 18 months and I look forward to building on that success."