The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, which would further Everglades Restoration efforts, as well as improve management of the nation’s waterways, and fund flood control and coastal resiliency projects.
The bill, which was approved 384-37, now heads to the U.S. Senate.
The passage comes on the same day that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a measure tied to Everglades restoration, saying the legislation have stalled restoration and added "redundant regulatory hurdles" to fixing the historic river of grass.
U.S. Rep. Mast, a Republican, wrote the legislation for the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan and six other provisions to protect the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.
“The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan is landmark legislation and a major victory in the fight to permanently end toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” Mast, whose district includes St. Lucie County and Martin County as well as the northeastern part of Palm Beach County, said in a statement. “At my urging, this bill also includes $100 million for critical infrastructure that will protect the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon. This is the most important piece of legislation for our waterways in years.”
Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat whose district also serves residents in Palm Beach County, applauded the passage.
“The Everglades is a unique and delicate ecosystem that is home to hundreds of endangered plant and animal species and provides clean drinking water for more than eight million Floridians and visitors,” Frankel said. “This bipartisan legislation will support projects to restore the Everglades for future generations, protect South Florida’s communities from devastating floods, reduce harmful algae in our waterways, and help us improve upon our water systems.”
The plan builds on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan by requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action to address harmful algal blooms and end the toxic discharges that continue to plague the northern estuaries.
"The goal of CERP is to restore America’s Everglades, but it was never intended to completely eliminate harmful discharges to the northern estuaries." according to news release by Mast. "or example, CERP projects are expected to eliminate only two-thirds of discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary. NERP would work to eliminate the remaining discharges not stopped by the completion of CERP projects."
Six other provisions touted by Mast are:
Protecting estuaries with $100 million funding.
Improving water quality in the Indian River Lagoon.
Developing new technology to combat harmful algal blooms.
Expediting completion of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.
Removing legacy nutrients from Lake Okeechobee.:
Defending military personnel from harmful algal blooms.
Frankel noted these parts of the legislation that benefits South Florida:
Expediting completion of a study for the Western Everglades Restoration Project.
Reporting on the status of all Everglades restoration projects, including estimated implementation and updated costs.
Increasing funding for Port Everglades deepening and widening, allowing the project to move forward.
Authorizing a comprehensive Central and South Florida study of resiliency and flood risk management.