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My Vote On The Water Resources Development Act

May 16, 2013 | Blog

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that passed the Senate today could have had a positive effect on Florida’s natural resources, industries and residents.   Every Floridian is impacted by the work conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers in our state.  Unfortunately, politics were chosen over sound public policy, and the state’s best interests were left out of the final bill.  

When this legislation was first passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee, it contained a provision that would have worked to resolve a multi-decade water dispute between our state, the State of Alabama and the State of Georgia. Floridians in Apalachicola Bay have known all too well how this dispute has created economic havoc for our once vibrant oyster industry, as well as all the other industries that are so dependent on the harvesting and sale of that great resource.

To address this issue, I worked with several other senators to make restoring flows out of Atlanta and towards the Apalachicola Bay – my top priority as we began debate on the WRDA. Unfortunately, the language addressing this dispute was taken out of the bill after the Committee approved it, and my amendment to reinstate this important policy was not included in the final bill.

Despite this setback, I will not give up on restoring flows towards the Apalachicola Bay. I’ve requested a field hearing in the Apalachicola Bay area so that my colleagues in the Senate can better understand why this issue simply cannot continue to be held hostage to the broken politics of Washington.

Another top priority for me on this legislation was to make sure that funds paid into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are used for harbor maintenance, not ransacked by Washington appropriators for other pet projects around the country. But once again, the Democrat majority in the Senate chose politics over policy by removing a provision in the bill that would prohibit funds for harbor maintenance from being used elsewhere.  This does not serve Florida’s interests, nor the American taxpayer’s interest. And, while this legislation authorized several projects important to the Everglades, it did not authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project, the next major step towards complete restoration.

This legislation could have done much more for the natural resources and industries of Florida, but it is clear that Washington has a long way to go when it comes to choosing good policy over politics. I share in the frustration of many Floridians, but will remain committed to achieving the best policy for my state of Florida.