The Obama administration signaled it’s serious about fixing the Everglades Monday by unveiling a budget that proposes spending $240 million on restoration work.
Of that, at least $124 million would go directly toward U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects, nearly double the current budget and more than four times what was spent the year before, said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
The money builds on $1.6 billion the administration says it has so far spent to complete chronically-delayed repairs to one of the nation’s largest ecosystems. Restoring the wetlands drained for development in the 1940s was first authorized under a landmark act signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000. But in recent years, the large public works bill intended to pay for projects failed to pass a divided Congress.
“We’ve been very vocal that if we’re going to avoid Everglades fatigue not only in Florida but around the country, we’ve got to move to finish these projects,” Eikenberg said. “So the White House coming out with $124 million just for the Corps is a very positive development.”
Eickenberg said he now hopes Congress follows the lead and “at least starts at that baseline.”
While the administration did not name specific projects to be funded, Julie Hill-Gabriel, director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida, said top contenders include two older canal projects in South Miami-Dade County authorized nearly two decades ago, along with four projects inserted into a major 2014 water works bill. Among the projects are a water preserve in western Broward County and two reservoirs needed near Lake Okeechobee to keep polluted water from fouling the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. In 2013, water from the lake triggered toxic algae blooms.