U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has introduced legislation that would make the second portion of a key Florida Bay restoration project, as well as three other Everglades projects, eligible for federal funding.
The bill, filed Aug. 2, would jump-start the projects by serving as an alternative to the passage of an updated -- but stalled -- version of the Water Resource Development Act. WRDA, as the act is known, is supposed to be renewed every two years, but hasn't been passed since 2007. Often controversial in its scope, it deals with water-related projects throughout the country.
In June, a congressionally mandated report issued by the National Research Council criticized the scant progress made since Congress passed the $13.5 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000. The council also noted that four projects, including one that would help increase freshwater flow into Florida Bay, remain ineligible for funding because a new WRDA has not been passed.
Nelson's bill would allow those projects to be authorized outside WRDA.
Audubon of Florida praised the bill in an early August press release.
"Sen. Nelson's legislation moves Everglades restoration forward," Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper said. "The projects in his bill are all necessary steps toward getting more water into the parched Everglades."
The state of Florida put up all $26 million that was spent on Phase 1 of the Florida Bay project, which was completed last December. However, the second phase, which is to involve the replacement of the expansive C-111 canal with a more environmentally sensitive waterway, is likely to be much more costly.
The Nelson bill would also make projects designed to improve water quality in Biscayne Bay and the Caloosahatchee Estuary, as well as one that will improve water storage and treatment in west Broward County, eligible for funding.