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President Trump signs bill creating reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee

Posted at 6:19 AM, Oct 23, 2018

President Trump on Tuesday signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law to create a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in an effort to filter out toxins that contribute to harmful algae blooms.

The water problems have killed turtles, fish, manatees and ravaged Florida's tourism-driven economy.

“This water infrastructure bill, which includes key projects that will address Florida’s growing water challenges, authorizes the new EAA Storage Reservoir that will reduce harmful discharges to Florida’s coasts and enhance the promise of Everglades restoration. I thank my colleagues for advancing this bipartisan effort and President Trump for signing it into law," Senator Rubio said in a statement.

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The South Florida Water Management District has said creating the reservoir could reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges by 65 percent.

The water storage project will cost about $1.3 billion, which will be split between the federal and state governments.

The reservoir could take nine to 10 years to build, so it is not an immediate fix.

"This was a community effort, and together, I am confident we will keep up the momentum to ensure the funding we need for this infrastructure and make health and human safety the top priority once and for all,” Congressman Mast said in a statement.

The bill also directs the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a five-year plan to reduce those harmful algae blooms.

The bill was achieved via bipartisan support from U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I predict that one day a few years from now we will look back with pride on how we stopped dispatching excess water from Lake Okeechobee east and west into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and instead sent it south to the Everglades and Florida Bay via the Southern Reservoir.  A groundbreaking this fall is in order.  Let’s get it done," said Florida Senate President Joe Negron in a statement.

The Everglades Foundation said it now falls on Congress to appropriate the $200 million annually that is needed to construct the reservoir.

"Let’s get it built – in four years, not ten or fifteen. Florida’s estuaries, coastlines and America’s Everglades are imperiled, and the people of Florida cannot afford to wait," the CEO of The Everglades Foundation, Eric Eikenberg said in a news release.

The America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 authorizes more than $6 billion in spending over 10 years for projects nationwide. The law also boosts projects to restore Gulf Coast wetlands damaged by Hurricane Harvey and improve harbors in Seattle, Savannah, Georgia, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.