In November 2021, President Biden signed the bipartisan, $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law. The IIJA includes funding for transportation, environmental infrastructure, disaster response, and more. In January of this year, the White House announced that $1.1 billion of these funds would go to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in Jacksonville to support their South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program — the program responsible for implementation and oversight of Everglades restoration in cooperation with the South Florida Water Management District. Audubon and many others were thrilled to learn of this historic investment in Everglades restoration.
Audubon, in cooperation with partners and Florida’s Congressional delegation, advocates for increased funding for Everglades restoration to support ongoing projects throughout the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Funding allocated to the Corps’ already planned projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will hasten the completion of Everglades restoration. These projects, like the Indian River Lagoon C23/24 Reservoir and the Biscayne Bay Southeastern Ecosystem Restoration project, will improve the hydrology of the region, safeguard drinking water supplies for South Florida, improve water quality, and increase resilience.
The federal funding was certainly a welcomed win. However, several important restoration projects did not receive support, including the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project. The EAA reservoir is the single most important project for benefiting multiple parts of the Everglades. When complete, the reservoir will enable clean water to be sent south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, reducing harmful discharges to estuaries in the east and west. Audubon called for additional investment in the EAA reservoir under the general appropriations process.
In March 2022, the Biden Administration announced another record-breaking number for Everglades restoration in the president’s budget: $407 million. If approved by Congress, this funding would primarily support the EAA reservoir. There has been historic bipartisan support of Everglades restoration and we are hopeful that, with the Florida delegation’s continued leadership, Congress will meet the call and provide an additional surge of funding for the Everglades.
This article was published in the Spring issue of State of the Everglades magazine.