Local officials pursue water quality funding
February 28, 2018
MARATHON — A coalition of elected representatives and managers from Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo journeyed to the nation’s capital in February to pursue water quality funding as promised years ago when the Florida Keys began to spend what amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars on advanced wastewater treatment systems.
Specifically, the officials sought fiscal year 2018 environmental funding from the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program. Promised $100 million over time, the Florida Keys has received about $53 million over the past decade in program funds.
The Keys officials presented a letter requesting the funding to Ryan Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letter was signed by South Florida congressional members Carlos Curbelo, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hastings, Theodore Deutch, Lois Frankel, Brian Mast and Frederica Wilson.
Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire from Congress at the end of her term, was publicly thanked with a plaque for her successful efforts in bringing millions of wastewater dollars to the Keys in FKQWIP’s early years.
The current emphasis on water quality funds aims to reimburse wastewater system expenditures, as well as fund stormwater treatment and canal restoration. The officials also shared what the Keys has accomplished in the recent past regarding water quality efforts.
Marathon Mayor Michelle Coldiron said the contingent reminded federal officials that Keys residents have footed the bill for the entire Florida Keys.
“It’s not just our residents that benefit from that,” she noted.
Coldiron credited Curbelo with drafting the bipartisan letter asking for ACOE finds that was signed by the Florida congressional delegates.
Additionally, the Keys group asked for disaster assistance, given the widespread devastation Hurricane Irma caused in the Keys last September, she said.
The group also expressed support for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan authorized by Congress in 2000 as a plan to “restore, preserve and protect the South Florida ecosystem.”
It was a busy couple weeks for elected officials with community leaders traveling to the state capital the week prior to host Florida Keys Day.
Islamorada Village Manager Seth Lawless said because land acquisition did not get funded last year, Florida Keys officials pressed state legislators for funds for the Florida Forever program, as well as for stricter regulations for liveaboards and a request for more Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers in the Keys.
Ultimately, time will tell if the group was successful.