Two Florida congressmen are bringing back the Everglades Caucus.
The bipartisan team of U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, will co-chair the caucus, which is aimed at helping restore Florida’s crucial wetlands.
According to Diaz-Balart and environmental advocates, the caucus could help safeguard continued federal funding of the pricey Everglades restoration project.
The Everglades Caucus was first started by Diaz-Balart about a decade ago, but through the years it wasn’t always re-created at the start of each legislative session. All congressional caucuses have to be reinstated every two years. However, the Everglades Caucus missed a few of those years.
Diaz Balart says it’s time to bring it back, though. In the past, he says having the caucus has helped focus the existing bipartisan support in Congress for helping the wetlands.
“Because a group of us have been focused on this issue and have been able to coordinate the entire Florida delegation to coalesce around Everglades restoration we have seen that there has been a dramatic change of the level of involvement and of commitment from the federal government,” Diaz-Balart says.
That “commitment” translates into big money for Everglades’ restoration, which is something that Everglades Coalition state co-chair Jennifer Hecker says is badly needed.
“We need that type of leadership in Washington,” Hecker says. “We are in desperate need of what is known as a Water Resources Development Act. That’s what authorizes everglades projects to continue. While we already have projects in the ground and moving ahead we need authorization for those next phase of projects and without leadership in Washington to help us gets these bills passed, we will not have that.”
Hecker, the natural resource policy director at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, says there are still several decades of work left to completely restore the Everglades back to its natural glory.
The Everglades restoration project costs $10.9 billion. It remains the most expensive and comprehensive environment repair attempt in U.S. history.