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Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio call on federal government to fund Everglades reservoir

News conference held at stormwater treatment area in Wellington
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at stormwater treatment area in Wellington, Jan. 31, 2022
Posted at 12:59 PM, Jan 31, 2022

WELLINGTON, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Palm Beach County on Monday to talk about Everglades restoration, speaking at a stormwater treatment area in Wellington.

DeSantis was joined by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton and South Florida Water Management District Chairman Chauncey Goss.

The Biden administration announced this month that $1.1 billion will be allocated for Everglades restoration as part of the $1.1 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

However, the governor said Monday he was disappointed that the federal government is not allocating any money to the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project.

"The crown jewel is this EAA Reservoir Project, and it's vitally important to reduce and even eliminate harmful discharges to the Coolashatchie and St. Lucie estuaries and for sending more water to the Everglades and to Florida Bay," DeSantis said.

WATCH: DeSantis holds news conference in Wellington

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Brian Mast hold news conference in Wellington

The 10,000-acre reservoir is expected to be built by the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $1.6 billion, with half the cost shared by the state.

The project is an effort to bring an end to Lake Okeechobee water releases and the algae blooms it causes in Florida's waterways.

"We're all here united calling on the Biden administration to include at least $725 million for Everglades restoration in the upcoming fiscal year 2023 budget request and to allocate the funds necessary to timely advance the EAA reservoir project," DeSantis said.

Neither Rubio nor Mast voted for the federal infrastructure law that resulted in the $1.1 billion allocation of funds for the Everglades.

Rubio said he didn't vote for the bill because it was "loaded up" with projects that were not related to infrastructure and focused on many projects for primarily-Democratic states like New York and California.

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks in Wellington about Everglades restoration
During a news conference in Wellington on Jan. 31, 2022, Sen. Marco Rubio shares why he didn't vote for President Biden's infrastructure law.

"It is widespread and understood in the delegation that these projects work in conjunction with one another and this one (the EAA reservoir) had vaulted to the top of the list," Rubio said. "I actually think it's one of the reasons why it wasn't funded is because they understand that that had become a priority for policymakers in Florida."

Drew Bartlett, the deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said he believes the federal government will begin a few pieces of the reservoir this year, but the ground has not been broken yet.

"Some of their timeframes have it taking eight to nine years to get built," Bartlett said.

The office of Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said it was hypocritical for Republican members who voted against the bill to criticize this historical investment.

Below is the full statement released by Frankel:

My Florida Republican colleagues made a choice. Instead of participating in the negotiations of this historic infrastructure law, they turned their backs on bipartisanship to try to deny the President a win. This historic investment in our nation's infrastructure includes the largest single allocation for Everglades restoration in our history," said Rep. Frankel. "Restoring the Everglades is a deeply complex, comprehensive plan, and each project we're able to complete is a monumental win for the millions of Floridians, and hundreds of endangered plants and animal species that rely on this ecosystem. It’s beyond hypocritical for the Republican Members who voted against this bill to turn around and complain about this historic investment. Their lack of graciousness is an embarrassment to our state."

Republican lawmakers said their next step would be to work on the federal budget to get federal funds to help build the reservoir.