STUART, Fla. — A big decision in the U.S Congress Tuesday could make a difference in the health of our local waterways.
The 2020 Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), or the ‘Water Bill’, includes multiple provisions that would benefit Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast if it passes in a final vote.
The more than 360-page bill includes a mandate that the Army Corps of Engineers seeks to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries expedites the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Southern Reservoir and helps the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project move forward.
According to an email from Kyle VonEnde, Communications Director for U.S Congressman Brian Mast, “Everything we successfully fought to pass in the House version of the bill back in July was included in the final version that we will be voting on tomorrow… reducing toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee, expediting construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir and developing new technology to combat harmful algal blooms.”
John Mahl, the Martin County Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager, said he is glad to see lawmakers making this bill a priority.
“We are in the long game on this one. There’s no silver bullet,” Mahl said.
Each water bill, he said, helps Florida make improvements, even if only in gradual steps.
“The thing for Martin County that is so exciting is the Loxahatchee Project. That project has been on life support a couple of times.”
The north fork of the Loxahatchee River is almost entirely in Martin County.
The project aims to bring more freshwater to the river and restore the river’s natural flow. “[It] has been 5 to 6 years in the making and it’s been delayed and over budget,” Mahl said.
WRDA 2020 would also direct the secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out a demonstration program to assist in detecting, treating, and preventing harmful algal blooms.
Lawmakers are set to begin discussing and voting on the bill around 1:15 Tuesday. If it passes, it will go to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.