Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today passed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019, including two amendments authored by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The first amendment would ensure that any Lake Okeechobee discharges by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Caloosahatchee River or the St. Lucie River are conducted in pulses, unless there is a threat to the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. This measure would strengthen existing water management rules to minimize the downstream impact of discharges on water quality, and allow for periodic flushing of potential harmful algal blooms and nutrients and the periodic recovery of brackish conditions in the estuaries.
The second amendment reasserts the original intention for Everglades restoration efforts to redirect Lake Okeechobee discharges towards the Central Everglades, where they would be stored, treated, and utilized to increase freshwater flows to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Additionally, the amendment expresses the sense of Congress that water quality features, including those water quality features of the proposed Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir, should be cost-shared equally by the state and federal government.
“With continued discharges from Lake Okeechobee, local communities are already concerned about another ‘Lost Summer,’” said Rubio. “My amendments reflect the will of the Florida delegation and Congress as a whole, continuing the federal-state partnership to fix the complex water problems faced by Floridians. We have provided the Administration with all funds necessary to complete the expedited rehabilitation of the Dike, and we will continue to urge the Corps to fulfill its commitments to downstream communities and the Everglades.”
Background on Rubio’s Efforts
- Earlier this month, Rubio secured key funding that enhances water quality and seagrass monitoring to assess the impact of discharges, and protected the Interior Department’s Everglades restoration budget from unjustified cuts.
- In May, Rubio secured a provision expediting design work on critical reservoirs to collect and clean Lake Okeechobee discharges and local runoff before release into the St. Lucie River and ultimately into the Indian River Lagoon.
- In March, Rubio urged the Army Corps to support Florida water projects and led the South Florida delegation in urging to expedite its review of CEPP’s Post-Authorization Change Report (PACR) submitted by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
- In February, Rubio urged the Army Corps to use supplemental disaster funding to complete work on the Herbert Hoover Dike. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rubio was able to secure Lake Okeechobee relief funding in the disaster supplemental.
- South Florida leaders have commended Rubio’s leadership and work to restore the Everglades and improve the quality of Florida’s waterways.
- In 2016, Rubio’s efforts ultimately convinced former Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe to support CEPP.
- In 2016, following the Senate’s passage of WRDA in September, Rubio urged key House and Senate committee leaders of both parties to retain important Florida projects in the final version of WRDA.