Florida Delegation Rallies Behind Water Resources Report

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 17, 2014 3:55 AM
Steve Southerland, Lois Frankel, Ander Crenshaw

Steve Southerland, Lois Frankel, Ander Crenshaw

This week, congressmen from Florida cheered the final version of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) conference report as good for the state.

With the U.S. House expected to vote on the conference report on Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats from the northern part of the Sunshine State insist it will boost the area by supporting ports, even as the Panama Canal expansion nears completion, and helping Apalachicola Bay’s oyster business by including water agreements with Georgia and Alabama.

“I am pleased that we’re now on the verge of some tremendous victories for Florida’s growing maritime industries,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla. on Thursday. “This legislation will direct new resources to Florida’s emerging ports to help capitalize on the economic growth opportunities that come with the expansion of the Panama Canal. I look forward to voting for the WRRDA bill and continuing my work to strengthen Florida’s ports and maritime industries.”

Longtime U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Transportation Committee which oversaw the report, said she was “absolutely thrilled” because the measure would direct federal funds to improve Mile Point in the St. Johns River and ready dredging efforts to improve Jacksonville’s maritime trade.

“I am very happy with the local Jacksonville community’s strong group effort, which helped a great deal in having both Mile Point and the dredging project included in the final conference report,” Brown said. “I have been working for over a year to ensure that both projects were authorized in WRRDA, and am extremely satisfied to see them come to fruition.

From his perch as chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., also praised the report as good for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.

“Inclusion of Mile Point and JAXPORT dredging in the Water Resources and Development Act Conference Report is great news and win-win for the First Coast,” Crenshaw said. “With the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point and the dredging of the St. Johns River, large cargo container ships <can come> to the region, meaning more trade, more jobs, and a stronger economy for decades to come. I look forward to voting for the conference report when it comes to the House floor next Tuesday.”

Brown gave her Republican colleague from the First Coast a shout out as she called for more federal funds to complete dredging the St. Johns.

“Now we must continue to fight for the funding that is needed to complete the dredging,” Brown added. And with completion of the conference report, I am very confident that this can be accomplished if we continue to work together in the same way we did to secure the chief’s report. I’m certain that with an ongoing effort by all the partners involved, as well as Congressman Crenshaw and the other members of the North Florida delegation, we can secure the necessary federal funds to move the dredging project to completion.”

The report also focused on other parts of the Sunshine State, authorizing projects in the Everglades, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and across Florida. 

Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, applauded the report for being the first federal effort in seven years to authorize and fund Everglades restoration. The report backs projects involving the C-111 Spreader Canal, the C-43 Caloosahatchee Storage Reservoir. water preserve areas in Broward County and coastal wetlands in Biscayne Bay.

“The Everglades projects included in WRRDA will provide diverse benefits for Florida's birds and wildlife,” Draper said. “Passage of this bill is a clear signal from Congress that the River of Grass is still a national priority.”

Draper singled out members of the Florida delegation -- including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. -- for helping craft the report.

“The efforts of these legislators will benefit Florida’s environment, economy, and the one in three Floridians that get their drinking water from the Everglades,” Draper said. “Now we call on Rep. Shuster and Sen. Boxer to follow through on their promises to begin work on the next water resources bill so that Congress can authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).” 

For her part, Frankel praised the report for including Everglades projects and for giving the green light to expand Port Everglades.

"I’m excited to see this bill finally come to the floor next week,” Frankel said. “It means improved water quality and more jobs for South Florida.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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