STATEMENT ON EVERGLADES
BY SEN. JAMES M. INHOFE
SEPTEMBER 13, 2002
I know that a number of my colleagues worked very hard on this legislation, including our distinguished ranking member Bob Smith, and I commend them for working towards the goal of restoring the Everglades. However, by rushing through this legislation, I believe that we are wasting money that could have gone towards a sensible plan to restore the Everglades into a plan that will never fix a thing.
As many of you know, I was the lone vote in opposition to the Everglades Restoration Act. Despite some of the claims made by the environmental community, my vote did not mean that I think the Everglades should not be restored. Rather, I felt like Congress was not being prudent in writing a check for $14 billion of taxpayer’s dollars before we knew that the money would actually restore the Everglades. I ask everyone to go look in the Congressional Record and look at my statements, and they can see this for themselves. In fact, when this legislation was attached to WRDA on the Floor of the Senate, I said, “While I recognize the Everglades as a national treasure, 5. 2797 sets precedents, which I cannot, in good conscious, condone.” I would like to submit my full floor statement from 2000 for the record.
When the Everglades bill was being considered, I stated, “The new precedent which requires the federal government to pay for a portion of operations and maintenance costs.” “Though federal funds are used to construct Water Development Projects, since 1986, the cost of operations and maintenance of the projects has been the non-federal entities (usually state or local governments) responsibility. The Committee should not forget that this critical cost-share policy was a key factor in breaking a 16-year stalemate on Water Resources Development Authorization (WRDA) legislation. The Everglades Restoration Act splits the cost of operations and maintenance of the Everglades — 1/2 to the federal government and 1/2 to the state of Florida. Not only is this provision unprecedented, it is also going to cost the federal government a great deal of money. Furthermore, because the federal government has not paid for operations and maintenance costs, states and localities have enormous backlogs of operations and maintenance costs due to lack of funding.” I still have threes concerns. I cannot stay for questions today, but I would like to have the Corps submit figures to me — not only on what O&M costs have been but also what the O&M costs are projected to be. I would also like figures on what this entire project is expected to cost.
I also stated that “The violation of Committee on the Environment and Public Works’ policy concerning the need for a Chief of the Army Corps of Engineer’s report before project authorization. . .and the basis of the restoration project on unproven technology” It is not being pro-environment to throw money out the window. Congress is pouring billions into a project that is not protecting or restoring the environment. Elaine Hall, the head of external affairs for the Everglades project, was quoted in the Washington Post on June 23, 2002 as saying, “In 10 years, I’m afraid, they’re going to wonder what they’ve bought with their billions.” Well, I could not agree more. It was my concern then and it is my concern now. In the same article Bob Gassaway, a Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist, stated, “I do not see a shred of evidence that all this money will help the environment.” I would like to submit the Washington Post series on the Everglades for the record.
Again, I did not vote against the Everglades legislation because I hate the Everglades or the environment. Rather, I think it is anti-environmental to waste precious resources on unproven plans. Taxpayers work hard for the money they send up here for us to protect the environment. We owe the taxpayers and the environment the wisest decisions. I am afraid that because we pushed forward without requiring common sense and accountability that all we have done is create another “Big Dig.”