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House pushes Water Reform Act to Senate

October 31, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act with a landslide 97 percent approval. The bill passed the House with a 417-to-3 vote and awaits approval by the Senate.

The act, entitled H.R. 3080, authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct water projects for mitigating storm and hurricane damage, restoring ecosystems and improving flood management. It would provide final authorization for construction of the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) Reservoir, a holding area for the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. Construction of this project will help keep these releases from harming our waterways.

Congressman Trey Radel's office provided a statement.

"Today, I was proud to vote for the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act," said Congressman Trey Radel (FL-19). "This bill contains zero earmarks, and fulfills the promises the government made to our state to complete the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir. This Reservoir will protect our beaches from the dirty, filthy freshwater releases coming from Lake Okeechobee, after all, in Southwest Florida we know a healthy environment means a healthy economy."

The legislation also authorizes the agency to assist states and local governments with levee safety programs and to assist Indian tribes with planning and technical assistance for water resources projects. H.R. 3080 directs the Corps to implement a pilot program to enter agreements with nonfederal partners to manage and construct certain projects. Those agreements would be subject to appropriation of all federal costs.

Assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, including adjustments for anticipated inflation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing H.R. 3080 would cost about $3.5 billion over 2014-2018 period. Spending would continue for authorized projects after 2018, and CBO estimates that such spending would total $4.7 billion over the 2019-2023 period.

Pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply because enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.

H.R. 3080 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

The purpose of the "C-43 Basin Storage Reservoir - Part 1" project is to improve the timing, quantity and quality of freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee River estuary.

Currently, the South Florida flood control system stores water in Lake Okeechobee. Excess water is discharged when the lake rises to a level that threatens flooding, the health of the lake, or the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The resulting, unnatural surges of fresh water down the river reduce estuarine salinity levels. Alternately, during drought periods when irrigation demands are high, little or no water is released to the river. Deprived of diluting fresh water, estuarine salinity levels rise, which can trigger die-offs of sea grasses and oysters, species that are indicators of the overall health of the estuary.

The C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir will be used to ensure a more natural, consistent flow of fresh water to the estuary. Basin stormwater runoff, along with a portion of the water discharged from Lake Okeechobee, will be captured and stored in a reservoir to be released slowly, as needed, to restore and maintain the estuary.

This project also will provide water-supply benefits, some management of floodwaters, and recreation benefits.

The chief report for the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir was assigned March 19, 2010. The plan included a 170,000 acre- foot storage reservoir with a 1500 cfs pump capacity. The 10,700-acre reservoir is located at the Barry Groves site.

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office; Congressman Trey Radel's office;



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