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Rubio, Florida Colleagues Fight Incorrect Army Corps Legal Interpretation Impeding Hurricane Risk Reduction Projects

Jun 17, 2024 | Comunicados de Prensa

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has misinterpreted a section of law in a way that undermines critical hurricane risk reduction projects in Florida by imposing burdensome requirements on local project sponsors in violation of existing project construction agreements. 

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) led members of the Florida delegation in a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, urging them to include a legislative solution in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2024. 

  • “Our provision will protect public infrastructure and the lives and livelihoods of Americans residing in and visiting Florida, which the USACE has arbitrarily and callously placed under unacceptable risk in contravention of their mission.”

Joining Rubio was Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Mike Waltz (R-FL), Sheila McCormick (D-FL), Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), John Rutherford (R-FL), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Cory Mills (R-FL), Laurel Lee (R-FL), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), Aaron Bean (R-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Greg Steube (R-FL), Kat Cammack (R-FL), Byron Donalds (R-FL), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

El full text of the letter

Dear Chairmen Carper and Graves, and Ranking Members Capito and Larsen:

We write to bring your attention to a dangerous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) policy interpretation that is undermining critically important hurricane risk reduction projects in Florida, and to urge you to include our legislative solution within the Water Resources Development Act of 2024 (WRDA).  Our provision will protect public infrastructure and the lives and livelihoods of Americans residing in and visiting Florida, which the USACE has arbitrarily and callously placed under unacceptable risk in contravention of their mission.  

Pursuant to a deeply flawed interpretation of Section 103 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 1986 (33 U.S.C. 2213), the USACE has imposed unfair, burdensome, and unforeseen perpetual easement requirements on local project sponsors of hurricane risk reduction projects.  For years, the USACE worked with local project sponsors to construct storm surge-resistant shoreline features pursuant to mutually agreed upon project construction agreements.  Several years ago, the USACE unilaterally altered the terms of this work without the consideration or consent of local project sponsors, bringing many projects to a grinding halt.  Many projects have not been properly maintained due to this policy failure, leading to progressing erosion and heightened storm surge risk to coastal communities.  Local project sponsors, and the communities they serve, simply seek the certainty that the USACE will uphold its commitments to nourish and maintain these vital shore projects in a manner that is consistent with existing project construction agreements.  Our provision would codify these existing agreements and direct the USACE to accommodate the commitments to local project sponsors therein.

As evidenced by the April 24, 2024 Report to Congress by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASACW), which was required by Section 8235 of WRDA 2022, the ASACW and USACE have surrendered responsibility for their capricious policy failure, and Congress must step in. As such, we urge you to include our provision to direct the USACE to implement hurricane and storm damage risk reduction projects in line with existing project construction agreements. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Atentamente,