U.S. Army Corps Continues Restoration Efforts

By Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Ft. Myers News-Press, November 1, 2016

 

The fiscal year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District ended on Sept. 30 and it was a year in which our Team of Professionals, alongside our partners, achieved on-the-ground benefits to restore America’s Everglades.

The $127 million federal investment in fiscal year 2016 towards Everglades restoration provided essential funding to award critical construction contracts and to design and plan for future increments of restoration.  For construction efforts alone, we invested $96.5 million in our Everglades projects.

The entire Everglades ecosystem operates as a whole; progress made in each respective areas builds off each other to deliver essential benefits to America’s Everglades. This connectivity starts north of Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of the Everglades, and moves all the way south to Florida Bay.

North of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions north of —and within — the lake.  We awarded one of three remaining construction contracts for Kissimmee River Restoration this past year.  This project will restore approximately 44 miles of the historic Kissimmee River, restore more than 40 square miles of floodplain, and slow the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee.  We also initiated the Lake Okeechobee Watershed project, which will further improve conditions north of the lake and enhance system-wide operational flexibility.

East and west of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions in coastal estuaries and tributaries.  Construction of much-needed storage is underway at the Indian River Lagoon-South C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project on the east coast and the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project on the west coast.  This past year, we broke ground on the largest component of the C-44 project, the 3,400-acre reservoir. As a result of our essential partnership with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), all the C-44 project components are currently under construction or complete. This partnership also enabled the SFWMD to initiate the first phase of construction on the C-43 Reservoir project. Together, these projects will provide over 220,000 acre-feet of water storage.

Progress continues on developing the final report for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration project, which will improve conditions in the Loxahatchee River’s northwest fork.  We also initiated the Western Everglades Restoration Project, which aims to restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water within the western Everglades.

Currently pending congressional authorization, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will construct conveyance features needed to send additional water south from Lake Okeechobee.  It will also deliver more than 200,000 acre-feet of water south from the lake into Everglades National Park.  Congressional authorization will make CEPP eligible for congressional appropriations.

South of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will send additional water south to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. This past year we awarded two of three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project.  We’re also finishing construction on the Modified Water Deliveries project. Combined, these projects put the necessary infrastructure in place to send larger quantities of water south on a long-term basis. We awarded one of three remaining contracts for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project, which will deliver much-needed freshwater to Biscayne Bay.  Additionally, the emergency deviation implemented this past year helped to alleviate high water levels within the system and deliver additional water to the Park.

We will keep momentum going in fiscal year 2017.  We started this year with a visit from our Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite who appreciates the important collaborative work we’re doing to restore this complex ecosystem and recognizes our strong federal-state partnership is critical to maintaining momentum. We applaud our partners’ efforts, including the Department of the Interior breaking ground on additional Tamiami Trail bridging and SFWMD’s continued progress on Restoration Strategies.  Alongside our partners, with valuable input from multiple stakeholders, we developed the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS).  It’s our Everglades restoration roadmap—a living document with flexibility to adjust as conditions change.

We are encouraged by the progress made to date and our Corps team is absolutely committed to maintaining momentum on our important work to restore and preserve America’s Everglades for future generations.

Col. Jason Kirk is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander.

Alabama, Florida and Georgia Join Forces to Fight Government Overreach

 

Chambers Support Attorneys General Water Rule Lawsuit against Environmental Protection Agency

 

ATLANTA, FL. (July 14 , 2015) – Managing water resources in southeastern states has, for too many years, been a contentious and divisive issue. Rarely have there been opportunities for state chambers of commerce from Alabama, Florida and Georgia to unite in support of a water resource management issue that will impact all states equally.

With their recently completed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rulemaking, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have, unfortunately, provided an urgent need for our three chambers to come together to support action to counter the federal agencies regulatory overreach.

Attorneys General from eight (8) states, led by Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens, have filed a lawsuit claiming that EPA has usurped the States’ primary responsibility for the management, protection, and care of intrastate waters and lands.

“A clean, reliable and affordable water supply is essential for Georgia communities, businesses and industries to continue to thrive,” said Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. “However, the Waters of the United States rule will expand EPA’s rulemaking authority, resulting in increased costs and regulatory burdens for water users, and the potential to encroach on the property rights of individual water users. The business community supports efficient and effective oversight. It’s my hope that EPA will work with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to ensure appropriate policies continue to protect Georgia’s water supply.”

We wholeheartedly support this Attorneys General initiative to put a stop to EPA’s rulemaking before it becomes entrenched policy. We also pledge to make our members’ voices heard loud and clear on this issue.

“Florida, Georgia and Alabama have not always seen eye to eye on inter-state water issues, but when a tsunami of federal regulations threatens the economic security of our region, we join forces and fight for free-enterprise,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The economic impact of the Federal EPA’s recent Waters of the US rule will harm Florida’s economy, Florida families and our state’s small businesses- the EPA’s attempts to regulate have gone too far. We appreciate the leadership of Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi to join with other attorney generals to stop this latest federal government overreach.”

 

As the Attorneys General made clear in their lawsuit, not only does EPA’s rule violate the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, the United States Supreme Court’s decisions interpreting that Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution, the final rule asserts that the agencies have virtually limitless power over non-navigable, intrastate waters.

 

“The EPA’s latest effort to assume control over water – from puddles to navigable waters – is yet another unjustified power grab by unelected bureaucrats who are drowning businesses, states and local governments in regulations,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary. “This out of control government agency should be providing life jackets not anchors to the private and public sectors.”

 

If this rule is allowed to stand, there will tremendous cost to our states, our economies, and our families. Under this federal power grab, land and water decision-making will be transferred to Washington. Individual property rights are under threat, permitting and compliance costs will significantly rise. Business investments will be impacted and states will lose control over the management of resources that have been conferred to them by the Constitution.

 

Our business, industry and community members take seriously their collective responsibilities to wisely use and manage water within their jurisdictions and together we oppose this federal regulatory overreach.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Keisha N. Hines
Vice President, Communications
Georgia Chamber of Commerce
khines@gachamber.com
404-223-2275 – office
404-409-8950 – cell

 

Edie Ousley
Vice President of Public Affairs
Florida Chamber of Commerce
eousley@flchamber.com
850-521-1231 – office
850-251-6261 – cell

 

Nancy Wall Hewston
Vice President, Communications
Strategic Information and Federal Affairs
Business Council of Alabama
nhewston@bcatoday.org
334-240-8725 – office
703-585-8796 – cell

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