Emergency declaration sows confusion, concern over federal projects

09-27-18 Big Cypress

A view of Big Cypress Preserve in the Everglades.  (Photo: Big Cypress Preserve)

Feb. 16, 2019 by David Silverberg

President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency yesterday, enabling him to take funds from military construction projects, has set off a scramble to find out which ones will be affected—and Florida is no exception.

Across the country, officials are trying to determine the impact of the declaration in their home states and districts. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter to Patrick Shanahan, the acting secretary of Defense, asking for a list of the projects shortly after Trump declared the emergency. Lawsuits are being launched challenging the legality of the move.

In Florida, military and federal construction is overseen by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), whose state headquarters is in Jacksonville.

Projects affecting Southwest Florida include Everglades restoration and repairs to the Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, according to USACE’s Jacksonville office.

USACE has already invested $2.4 billion in Everglades restoration projects. Plans are underway to create reservoirs to prevent polluted water from Lake Okeechobee being released into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, a cause of last year’s blue-green algae blooms and a prime feeder of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. In the federal fiscal year 2019 budget, $115 million was set aside for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), part of $1.1 billion appropriated for CERP projects like the reservoirs and repairs to the Hoover Dike.

Some of that money is already committed. On Feb. 5, USACE awarded a $387 million contract to three contractors, the Bauer Foundation Corp. of Odessa, Fla., Bencor Global Inc. of Frisco, Texas, and Treviicos South, Inc. of Charlestown, Mass., for 28.6 miles of cutoff wall to prevent seepage from the dike.

According to a USACE statement in June, 2018, USACE was planning to spend $148 million in Florida and Puerto Rico on navigation, flood and coastal storm damage reduction and aquatic ecosystem restoration projects. Much of this consisted of harbor improvements in both Florida and Puerto Rico, including improvements to Sarasota’s Lido Key ($13,462,000), Miami Harbor ($1,897,000), Port Everglades ($771,000) and Tampa Harbor ($500,000).

In addition to these, an advanced munitions technology complex is being planned for Shalimar, Fla., in the USACE Mobile, Ala., district.

On Jan. 23, the 27 members of the Florida congressional delegation sent a letter to President Trump urging him to preserve Everglades and Florida funding.

The emergency declaration is being challenged in court and details of its scope and impact remain to be clarified.

Liberty lives in light

 

 

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