Rubio, Florida lawmakers ask Biden for $725 million for Everglades restoration

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Florida, asked the Biden administration on Wednesday for at least $725 million to be included in his fiscal 2025 budget.

The money would help fund the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER), a program aimed at restoring the state’s Everglades and reestablishing natural water flow, which was disturbed over a century ago when drainage efforts negatively affected the ecosystem’s health.

In a letter dated March 6, Rubio and eight House lawmakers from Florida pointed to recent environmental incidents in the Sunshine State, including the dumping of fertilized water into some of the state’s rivers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started discharging nutrient-laden water into various Florida rivers and lakes around the Everglades last month in the wake of the “unseasonably high level” of Lake Okeechobee prompted by El Niño weather conditions, the lawmakers stated.

The rising water levels of Lake Okeechobee and other water conservation areas, however, are restricting “the ability to send major volumes” from the lake toward Everglades National Park.

“Despite the abundance of water, incomplete infrastructure acts as a bottleneck preventing much of it from reaching [Everglades National Park] where it would hydrate wetlands, balance salinities in the coastal zone, and recharge south Florida’s aquifer,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers argued completing the Everglades restoration projects will increase the flexibility of water management, prevent water shortages and lessen the need for discharges that can kill wildlife and decrease overall quality of life in southern Florida.

The lawmakers said they expect a substantial amount of the SFER funding to go toward the construction of the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA), which they called the “single most important Everglades project” to decrease the volume and frequency of harmful discharges. Its expedited construction will require about $3 billion, per the letter.

Rubio and others also called for the approval of an incremental funding clause for the EAA to ensure the seamless continuation of the project.

Biden will release his fiscal 2025 budget next Monday. The Hill reached out to the White House for comment.

Other lawmakers on the letter include Reps. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) and Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.).

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