Trump signs budget with $200 million for Everglades projects, reservoir to cut discharges
Nearly nine months ago President Donald Trump told TCPalm more money for Everglades restoration, including a reservoir project to help stop harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges, would be coming "soon."
The president signed the $1.4 trillion federal budget appropriating that money late Friday night.
Back on March 31, beside Lake O in western Palm Beach County, Trump said the money would be "a lot more than you would ever believe."
It is, in fact, the $200 million the Army Corps of Engineers needs in the current fiscal year, and for the next several years, to get the 10,100-acre reservoir built in eight years.
The South Florida Water Management District says it can have the 6.500-acre stormwater treatment area adjacent to the reservoir, its half of the $1.6 billion project, done in April 2024.
The project in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee is expected, when used in conjunction with other existing and planned projects, to reduce the number of damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers by 63 percent.
It also will send an average of about 120.6 billion gallons of clean water south to the thirsty Everglades and Florida Bay every year.
Trump's signature comes a day after the U.S. Senate approved the proposal, three days after the U.S.House of Representatives OK'd it and four days after leaders of both chambers and both political parties agreed to a compromise budget for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.
The stumbling block had been the $8.6 bill Trump wanted for the southern border wall. In the end, Democrats and Republicans agreed to continue funding the wall, but at the previous $1.4 billion level.
Without the new budget, federal funding would have remained at the current level of about $67 million, and the Corps would have needed at least another year to complete its work.
In fact, Trump's original budget proposal called for less money — $63 million — for Everglades projects.
Members of Florida's Capitol Hill delegation from both sides of the aisle, and that trip to Lake Okeechobee, apparently convinced him the extra money would be well spent.
In a tweet May 13, Trump said he would "be fighting" for the extra funding and called on Congress to "help us complete the world's largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP. Good for Florida and good for the environment."
Besides the reservoir project, the money allocated to the Corps will be used for:
- The Central Everglades Planning Project, a suite of projects that can be fast-tracked to increase the flow of clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay
- The C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area in western Martin County to store and clean water before it moves into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River
- The C-43 Reservoir, designed to store water going to the Caloosahatchee River estuary during wet periods and release it during the dry season