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Politics

Everglades Restoration Memorial Passes House Committee

March 20, 2014 - 7:00pm

A Memorial proposed by Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, made its way through the House State Affairs Committee on Friday.

Harrells Memorial, House Memorial 607, is a nonbinding, declarative message that would call on Congress to authorize the next phase of Everglades restoration.

[HM 607] urges Congress to pass the Water Resource Development Act, said Harrell on Friday. We really want the federal government to be our 50/50 partner as [the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan] provides.

Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-mandated freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee promoted algae blooms and accelerated toxins in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie waterways.

The Corps began releasing water from the lake in May after a record-setting start to the rainy season, which resulted in lake levels rising past 16 feet above sea level.

As the lake rises, the Corps concern for the aging dike around the lake and the safety of communities on the lakes shore grows. The 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake O was constructed in the 1930s, but now is in such disrepair that its ranked among the dikes most likely to fail in the U.S.

The higher the water level, the more pressure is placed on the already weak dike.

As the rains increased, the lake rose -- and so did the releases. Billions of gallons of fresh water were released into the estuary, which supports a delicate ecosystem. With the overflow of fresh water came lowered levels of salinity.

Oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife calling the estuary their home began dying.

Harrells Memorial would include the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, the C-111 Spreader Canal, the Broward County Water Preserve Area, the CaloosahatcheeRiver C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir, and the Central Everglades Planning Project.

Restoring these areas would help to discharge lake water into the Everglades instead of into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries, according to Harrell.

Harrell also vowed to push Congress to increase annual appropriations for rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike to accelerate project completion.

Per the Memorials conclusion, copies of it have been sent to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and all members of the Florida delegation to Congress.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.


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