The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) passed the U.S. House today. The bill removes roadblocks to the construction of the Audubon-backed Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir project, critical for both America’s Everglades and South Florida’s waterways.
“Congress authorized the EAA Reservoir in 2018, but unbelievable as it might be, the Corps of Engineers misinterpreted directions and the project got stuck in red tape. This year, Congress is doubling-down on its intent. Thanks to the bipartisan effort by Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell and Congressman Mast, this provision makes it unequivocally clear that construction on the critical EAA Reservoir project must begin immediately. No more delays for America’s Everglades. All systems are a go,” said Audubon Florida Director of Everglades Policy Celeste De Palma.
The 2020 bill also authorizes the Loxahatchee Watershed Restoration Project, a component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, as well as modifications to the C-43 Reservoir and C-111 South Dade restoration projects. There will be a new monthly report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailing water flows within the Everglades watershed, as well as an evaluation of the effects of closing gates to prevent toxic algal discharges out of Lake Okeechobee.
“This is why it is absolutely critical for WRDA to stay on the 2-year cycle. It fosters momentum on ecosystem restoration priorities that are essential to protecting South Florida’s waterways and our way of life. We thank Chairs DeFazio and Napolitano, Ranking Members Graves and Westerman for their leadership, and House Speaker Pelosi for scheduling the vote,” continued De Palma.
Additional Audubon priorities include a provision directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider natural features when building storm and flood control infrastructure, and a reformulation of the Corps’ cost-benefit analysis formula, which currently undervalues nature, and nature-based features.
“This is a game-changer. In South Florida, our collection of wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs arm us with the best nature can offer to withstand incoming storms. But we need more of these systems and less concrete. This is a step in the right direction. In the face of climate change, including nature-based infrastructure into all resiliency plans will be critical,” says Beth Alvi, Audubon Florida Director of Policy.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their version of the Water bill in May. A Senate floor vote is pending. Audubon looks forward to continuing to advocate for the approval of a WRDA bill in 2020.