Rubio: “We were fortunate yesterday to get the Committee to approve, at the Senate level, the Central Everglades Planning Project and obviously we’re hopeful of getting that passed in the full Senate, over in the House and ultimately into law… So there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to fit together and there’s not a single project that takes care of all of it. It has to all happen and one project will build upon another so it’s a complicated issue and it’s gonna take more time. We feel good about the progress, but there’s more work to do.”
Washington, D.C. – Following the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passage of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today held a press conference following a meeting with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in West Palm Beach.
Rubio met with officials to discuss ongoing Florida water management issues, including harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the east through the St. Lucie River and to the west through the Caloosahatchee River, and the need for water to flow south for Everglades’ restoration. He also discussed solutions, such as the CEPP and the de-authorization of the Ten Mile Creek. Rubio concluded his visit with a tour of the operations control room, where water managers monitor water levels and flows for the 16 counties in the SFWMD.
A portion of the transcript of the press conference is available below, and a video is available here.
The following photos are attributable to the Office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Press Avail at the South Florida Water Management District
April 29, 2016
Senator Marco Rubio: “We are getting to a critical point in the process here in Washington.
“We were fortunate yesterday to get the Committee to approve, at the Senate level, the Central Everglades Planning Project and obviously we’re hopeful of getting that passed in the full Senate, over in the House and ultimately into law.
“And there’s a lot of work that remains to be done but we feel optimistic about it. So just kind of getting an update on the existing projects that are in the pipeline and being able to go back and justify to my colleagues why we need more money and more approvals.”
“Well the challenges at the federal level – number one just the process takes forever. To go from A to Z at the federal level takes a long time. It’s not as quick as it is at the state level. That’s been part of it.
“I think part of it is the notion that there is no silver bullet. There is no one single project that in and of itself solves all the problems.
“And the third thing is we’re trying to deal with multiple things at the same time.
“I mean you’ve got an ecological system in Lake Okeechobee that you want to maintain, you’ve got flood control issues that you have an obligation to deal with. Then you’ve got the endangered species that might be impacted by water flows in a particular area.
“And you see what’s happened in St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee and other places that have been complicated.
“And then, of course, you’ve got the Everglades restoration component to it as well. So there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to fit together and then there’s not a single project that takes care of all of it. It has to all happen and one project will build upon another so it’s a complicated issue and it’s gonna take more time. We feel good about the progress, but there’s more work to do.”
“As you see, the answer is there’s no silver bullet. That’s the point I am saying. ‘Is there one thing we can do that changes everything?’ The answer is there’s no one simple thing we can do, we gotta do a bunch of different things.
“It’s the ability to store more water. It’s the ability to treat that water before it’s released.
“It’s also localized issues. I mean some of the issues we’ve seen with the water quality in both St. Lucie and in Southwest Florida have been driven by seepage that’s occurring in the local communities from old septic tanks and things of this nature.
“I used the analogy in our meeting of a Rubik’s cube. You get one side of it right then the other sides are off balance.
“So a lot of different things are going to happen over a period of time and we’re making incremental progress.
“The Ten Mile Creek project has been de-authorized and hopefully will be transferred here over the next 30-60 days. That will help increase capacity in the long term of storing more water but a lot of different things have to happen and that’s why we want to make sure all of that is moving along.”
“One of the things that we push the Small Business Administration and others to do is the disaster declaration, which has allowed funds to be opened up to deal with it.
“But again, one of the things we can help is where we can store more water and prevent some of that flow from happening, especially when water capacity has reached a certain point.
“Separate from that is the local issues that exist. You know, who’s gonna pay for these septic tanks to be taken out and replaced?
“These are localized county and city issues, which is why this is such a complicated issue. There are multiple places in which this becomes complicated, but we’ve gotten an extensive number of calls to our office from business that have been impacted, especially in the latest round of what we’ve seen here with the nutrients. That’s why we worked so hard for the disaster declaration and for those funds to become available.”
“The problem is, number one, a lot of what’s happening here is not just from the discharges from Lake Okeechobee. It’s a contributor, but even if discharges stopped completely, you are still going to have a problem because there’s local contamination that has to be addressed in the long-term.
“I think over time, you will see discharges go down even further, first of all as Lake Okeechobee increases its capacity to hold water, and second as you find alternative places where that water can be held and treated. Obviously there’s a dual impact here so you want more clean water flow to restore the natural flow of the Everglades and the in the Florida Bay. So I think that part of it, hopefully continues to get better, but you are still going to have an issue in St. Lucie and Martin county and other places until the local contributors get their contamination issues addressed.”
“I think what’s important is to understand that a lot of those projects that are already in the pipeline have built into them the capacity to increase their capacity of storage. They have all been dredged at lower levels, creating the capability for those projects in the future, if more water storage is needed, to be dredged even deeper so they can hold even more water.
“Again I think we are looking at not just what’s the most efficient use of taxpayer money, but also what can get you there the fastest. The process from buying land to turning it into a place that can hold water takes a long time. You’ve got current projects that are underway and you can’t lose focus on those, and many of those storage areas have been built with the ability to increase the capacity needed in the future.”