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Rubio Efforts to Protect Florida’s Water Quality and Fight Against Florida Algal Blooms

Jul 24, 2018 | Blog

Rubio’s efforts to improve Florida’s water quality in the 116th Congress

  • On December 22, 2020, Rubio secured $250 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration, other critical funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project, in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 omnibus appropriations bill. 

  • On December 22, 2020, Rubio’s legislation to combat invasive species in the Everglades passed Congress

  • On December 14, 2020, Rubio’s op-ed highlighted the progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

  • On December 9, 2020, Rubio praised the House passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and urged the Senate to move swiftly in approving the measure. Rubio secured numerous key provisions in WRDA, including funding for critical U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects related to Everglades restoration, beach renourishment, flood control, and environmental protection.

  • On October 1, 2020, Rubio applauded the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District that it had awarded four construction contracts, totaling more than $81 million, for ecosystem restoration in South Florida. 

  • On May 15, 2020, Rubio criticized a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would delay critical work on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir.

  • On May 7, 2020, Rubio released a statement after the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) unanimously approved the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020). 

  • On May 6, 2020, Rubio introduced the Suppressing Looming Invasive Threats Harming Everglades Restoration (SLITHER) Act, which authorizes and directs the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to develop innovative technologies and approaches to identify, target, and eliminate invasive animal and plant species that threaten Everglades restoration.

  • On February 11, 2020, Rubio’s op-ed highlighted Everglades restoration funding in President Trump’s proposed budget.

  • On February 10, 2020, Rubio praised the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2020 Work Plan, which included significant funding for Florida water projects.

  • On February 6, 2020, Rubio applauded President Trump for including $250 million for Everglades restoration in the 2021 budget request.

  • On December 19, 2019, Rubio secured the full $200 million for Everglades restoration in the appropriations bills that fund the federal government through Fiscal Year 2020.

  • On October 31, 2019, Rubio secured critical federal funding for continued progress on Everglades restoration projects, coral disease research and response, Harmful Algal Blooms, water quality, wildlife, infrastructure, and the Space Coast. 

  • On October 23, 2019, Rubio and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL-18) urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir project delays.

  • On October 7, 2019, Rubio urged Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to support the expedited completion of the Tamiami Trail Next Steps project.

  • On September 12, 2019, Rubio secured critical funding for Everglades restoration, the full $200 million in President Trump’s updated budget request, in the FY2020 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

  • On June 25, 2019, Rubio led a bipartisan group of his Florida colleagues in urging Assistant Secretary of the Army—Civil Works R.D. James to re-study the aging flood control system created as a result of the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project. 

  • On June 21, 2019, Rubio and Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) highlighted the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) announcement that $60 million will be awarded to the State of Florida to raise the unbridged sections of the Tamiami Trail.

  • On May 22, 2019, Rubio questioned Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt about the current moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of Florida, and touted President Trump’s action to increase the administration’s budget request for Everglades restoration funds to the full $200 million requested by the Florida congressional delegation during an Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing.

  • On April 10, 2019, Rubio released a statement after speaking with Acting Secretary Bernhardt, the White House, and leadership, that the ban on oil drilling off of Florida’s coasts will remain in place.

  • On March 7, 2019, Rubio and Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt urging that the Department’s next five-year Proposed Plan for offshore oil and gas drilling exclude all areas along Florida’s coast.

  • On March 1, 2019, Rubio joined his colleagues in introducing legislation that would mandate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), within one year of enactment, to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation.

  • On February 11, 2019, Rubio, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), and Senator Rick Scott (R0FL) urged President Trump to include a sustained annual commitment of $200 million in construction funding for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) in his Administration’s future budget requests to Congress.

  • On January 4, 2019, Rubio reintroduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act (S. 13), which would extend the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico through 2027 and would allow Florida to access additional resources for coastal conservation that are available to the other Gulf states.

Rubio’s efforts to improve Florida’s water quality in 2017-2018:

  • In December 2018, Rubio and Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) requested immediate intervention by the Trump Administration to prevent delay of the EAA Storage Reservoir Project.

  • On November 21, 2018, Rubio applauded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for including funding for critical Florida water infrastructure projects. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rubio outlined his support for these projects in a letter to Assistant Secretary James in mid-October.

  • On October 24, 2018, Rubio and his colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to approve the Governor’s request for a federal fishery resource disaster declaration due to Hurricane Michael’s impacts on the Florida Panhandle and its fishing communities.  

  • On October 23, 2018, President Trump signed into law the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), also known as WRDA, which included key provisions secured by Rubio to authorize critical U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects related to Everglades restoration, beach renourishment, flood control, navigation, and environmental protection. 

  • On October 16, 2018, Rubio urged the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James, to fairly consider Florida’s critical water infrastructure projects, some of which would improve water quality, in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Work Plan.

  • On October 4, 2018, after reports revealed that red tide was confirmed in Miami-Dade County, Rubio released a video statement outlining his commitment to Everglades restoration.

  • Ahead of the vote on the Kendall Parkway on September 27, Rubio urged Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to demonstrate a clear commitment to protect an Everglades restoration footprint in the project area. Rubio demanded that the project avoid any conflict with Everglades Restoration efforts, and linked his support of the Parkway to requirements on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority to buy land east of Krome Avenue and make it available for Everglades restoration land swaps. He also released a video outlining his conditions for supporting the project.

  • On September 10, 2018, Rubio teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman Brian Mast to write language authorizing the EAA Storage Reservoir, to be built south of Lake Okeechobee, included in the compromise version of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), also known as WRDA, which passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump on October 23.

  • On September 18, the Senate approved the final conference agreement to the FY19 Minibus appropriations package (H.R. 6157) that includes key measures advanced by Senator Rubio (R-FL) to address harmful algal blooms.

  • On September 12, the Senate approved the final conference agreement to the FY19 Minibus appropriations package (H.R. 5895), which includes critical funding secured by Senator Rubio for the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation and Everglades restoration that will improve water quality throughout the southern region of the state.

  • Following his successful request to the Small Business Administration, Senator Rubio announced the opening of recovery centers hosted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist businesses affected by red ride and blue-green algae blooms along the Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida.

  • In August, Rubio surveyed algal blooms in Captiva and Stuart. Rubio secured funding for agencies working to address harmful algal blooms. Rubio also urged Senate leaders to bring a critical water bill to the Senate floor that would help mitigate the impacts of lake discharges. Additionally, Rubio and Nelson secured a measure to enhance the public health response for Florida communities affected by the blooms. The two senators also introduced the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, which would help determine the federal resources available to solve algal challenges.

  • On July 25, 2018,  Rubio called the delays in the Army Corp’s new Everglades restoration schedule “unacceptable.”

  • On July 11, 2018, Rubio requested assistance for Florida business owners adversely affected by the harmful algal blooms. Rubio also introduced an amendment to secure funding to address algal bloom toxicity. 

  • Following Rubio’s July 8th request to President Trump, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delayed scheduled discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

  • In June, Rubio applauded the U.S. Army Corps for including key Florida infrastructure and water projects in the FY18 Work Plan. Rubio helped craft the omnibus bill that made these funds available to the Army Corps. The Senate also passed two Rubio measures to protect Lake Okeechobee communities and restore the Everglades.

  • In May, Rubio successfully secured FY19 funding priorities in the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.

  • In March, Rubio urged the Army Corps to allocate funding for vital Florida water infrastructure projects, including the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation and Everglades restoration.

  • In the 2018 spending bill, Rubio supported the budget request of $82 million for Herbert Hoover Dike construction and included an additional $180 million in the additional funding pot for Flood Control in the Construction account.

  • In February, Rubio was able to secure funding for Army Corps flood control projects in Florida through the disaster supplemental. Rubio also urged the Army Corps to use those funds to expedite completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project.

  • In January, Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requesting federal assistance in ensuring that the unbridged sections of the Tamiami Trail through the historic Everglades are raised in order to allow key Everglades restoration projects to begin full operation and to prevent future extreme flooding events in the Water Conservation Areas, as occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

  • On October 7, 2017, Rubio led nearly all members of the Florida congressional delegation in urging the leaders of the Senate and House appropriations committees to provide robust funding to expedite the completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike.


FY19 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations

  • Report language and $5 million to accelerate deployment of effective methods of intervention and mitigation to reduce the frequency, severity, and impact of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in freshwater systems. The report language encourages the agency to expand its collaboration with states to monitor, predict, track, and respond to HABs in the marine environment, and $1 million to expand existing support for states to assess domoic acid levels of HAB species in marine environment.

FY19 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations

  • Restores budget cuts for Everglades restoration, including $83,000 for Everglades restoration under the National Park Services’ Resource Stewardship account, more than $3 million under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget, and more than $6 million under the U.S. Geological Survey budget.

  • Report language to support more external research into the control and prevention of harmful algal blooms.

  • $2 million for land acquisition for Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Report language encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to expedite completion of biological opinions for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), including suggested deadlines of no later than Sept. 13, 2018 for the New Water Phase and no later than Feb. 2, 2019 for the South Phase. 

  • $3.204 million (nearly double FY18 levels) for the South Florida Geographic Program with dedicated funding of at least—

    • $500,000 to enhance water quality and seagrass monitoring in the Caloosahatchee Estuary and Indian River Lagoon especially with respect to assessing the impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges; and

    • $500,000 to enhance water quality and seagrass monitoring in Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay especially with respect to assessing the impact of Everglades Restoration projects.

    • $1.694 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF).

    • $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

    • $26.723 million for the National Estuary Program (NEP), including support for NEPs at Charlotte Harbor and Indian River Lagoon.

    • $15 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Rural Water Technical Assistance (a $2.3 million increase), including $1.7 million for technical assistance grants.

    • $713.823 million for EPA’s Science and Technology programs, including report language directing the agency to increase emphasis on external grant funding for research to control and prevent Harmful Algal Blooms.

Background regarding Rubio’s work on water-related issues affecting South Florida from previous Congresses:

  • September 15, 2016 – Landmark Everglades restoration and water quality improvement projects bundled together as the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) passed the Senate as part of the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 95-3 with Rubio voting in favor.    

  • September 12, 2016 – Rubio welcomed the Senate’s continued advancement of the CEPP, as well as three more Florida provisions included in the WRDA.

  • September 9, 2016 – Senator Jim Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, penned an op-ed in the Miami Herald detailing how Rubio persuaded him to support CEPP. 

  • August 26, 2016 – Rubio participated in a Tri-Cities Community Meeting with local leaders in Pahokee. Rubio discussed repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike, Lake Okeechobee, and the status of congressional action that would impact South Florida’s Everglades communities. 

  •  August 18, 2016 – Rubio and 15 Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida urged President Obama to reconsider his Administration’s denial of Governor Rick Scott’s request for a federal disaster declaration in response to the toxic algal blooms in the state’s waterways.

  • May 12, 2016 –  Rubio supported the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill that included $49.5 million for Herbert Hoover Dike seepage control.

  • April 29, 2016 Rubio met with the SFWMD in West Palm Beach.

  • February 16, 2016 – Senator Rubio reiterated the need for CEPP to help alleviate discharges from Lake Okeechobee in an op-ed in the TC Palm.

  • February 8, 2016 – Senator Rubio signed a delegation letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the committees of jurisdiction (Senate EPW, House Transportation) requesting CEPP authorization be included in the forthcoming water resources bill

  • December 18, 2015 – Senator Rubio’s Ten Mile Creek deauthorization language became Public Law No. 114-113 as part of the end of the year spending bill.

  • May 14, 2015 – Senator Rubio wrote a letter to Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein requesting that language to deauthorize the Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve be included in the fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.