Several groups in the marine and fishing industry supported the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives late Wednesday by a 399-25 vote.
The bill now goes to a conference committee to be reconciled with a Senate version that passed earlier this month.
The bipartisan bill would authorize $5 billion in water projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including $1.9 billion in critical funding for the Central Everglades Planning Project, as well as authorization for waterway access improvements and the use of natural infrastructure wherever possible.
Fishing groups said the project is an important step in improving Florida estuaries and will facilitate the flow and treatment of water south of Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades system. The Senate passed this critical legislation by a 95-3 vote earlier this month.
“I want to sincerely thank everyone in the industry who took the time to send prewritten letters on the WRDA bill to Congress through Yamaha Marine Advocacy. The passage of this bill once again proves our efforts to advocate through the industry’s online advocacy systems really do have a tremendous impact,” Yamaha Marine Group vice president Bill Boehman said in a statement.
“The sportfishing industry recognizes that it is vital for the Florida Everglades to receive funding as soon as possible to expedite the implementation of multi-year projects that will help fix the water-quality and water-management challenges that plague South Florida,” Scott Gudes, government affairs vice president of the American Sportfishing Association, said in a statement.
“These projects have been through an extensive review process and will provide significant environmental benefits by moving more water south from Lake Okeechobee. We encourage Congress to conference quickly on a final bill so that appropriations and construction can begin as soon as possible.”
“As an industry, we must show solidarity and resolve to affect legislation that impacts our businesses. The WRDA bill provides a strong next step forward in resolving the issues we’ve seen in Florida in the estuaries adjacent to Lake Okeechobee,” Boehman added. “Please continue to advocate through the grassroots advocacy systems available to you so that we can make sure this bill becomes law.”
“These projects will bring much-needed relief to our state’s estuary systems,” said Gary Jennings, Keep Florida Fishing manager. “Florida is the fishing capital of the world, and we thank lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate for recognizing the urgent need for measures that will have a major positive impact on fisheries conservation, ecosystem restoration and water quality.”
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and ranking member Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., expressed confidence in a joint statement that reconciling the differing versions of WRDA reauthorization in conference will be relatively easy.