STATEMENT OF SENATOR GEORGE V. VOINOVICH
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PULBIC WORKS
HEARING ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMPREHENSIVE EVERGLADES RESTORATION PLAN
SEPTEMBER 13, 2002
you, Mr. Chairman
. Let me
start out by thank ing you for holding this hearing today
on the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. As the former Chairman of the Transportation
and Infrastructure Subcommittee, I was
proud to be the sponsor of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, which
approved this ambitious plan to restore one of our nation’s natural treasures.
not only I have spent a lot of time in the Everglades
a number of different occasions.
As Governor of Ohio, I spent a day observing the , courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission. In addition, my wife Janet
and I have made many visits to Florida’s Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
and the Everglades National Park environmentally
of th . I
have also enjoyed fishing in the Florida Bay and fishing for snook in the
In January 2000, I had the opportunity to participate in an EPW Committee field hearing in Naples, Florida on the Everglades. While I was there, I flew over portions of the Everglades undergoing water quality restoration efforts and toured the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by airboat
and tour it by
Without a doubt, the centerpiece of WRDA 2000 is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Two years ago, we worked hard to ensure that the Everglades title to the bill addressed the concerns of all parties. Working on WRDA 2000 has been one of the highlights of my career in the Senate. The Everglades Plan not only is the largest restoration project the Corps has undertaken, it is the largest water quality restoration project in the world. We’ve got a hard job before us and it’s one we ought to do right.
putting together the Everglades title was to assure
that we moved the Plan forward while achieving consisten cy with
the criteria y that applied t oall
projects in the WRDA bill. Originally,
the Administration’s Everglades proposal deviated substantially from Corps of
Engineers and Environment and Public Works Committee policies for other water
resources projects, particularly in the level of
required for project authorizations.
Secretary submits the Project Implementation Report on the
individual project to the Committee s on
Environment and Public Works in the Senate and
Transportation and Infrastructure in the House and
the committees approve the projects by
I believe we accomplished a great deal in making the Everglades Plan acceptable
to all parties . In addition to the lack of
specificity in the Everglades Plan, I was also concerned about the cost of Everglades
restoration relative to the cost of all of the Corps of Engineers’ programs
nationwide. The Everglades Plan
requires construction appropriations of $200 million a year during the peak
years of construction12
March 2000, I asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to review the big
picture of Everglades restoration and water quality issues to help answer
questions about how much it would cost.
In its report – which was the subject of a Transportation and
Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing in September 2000 – the GAO lists several
in the Plan that w ill
likely lead to additional water quality projects that could increase
the total cost of the Plan over the Corps’ estimate of $7.8 billion. It was clear from the report that there are
too many unknowns and uncertainties in the Plan to estimate what the final
price tag w ill
we all know, the Corps faces a $44 backlog and insufficient construction dollars
– only about $1.7 billion per year.
of these challenges, overall
our nation’s priorities have changed significantly since
we approved the Everglades Plan. N evertheless
we are committed to restoring a nd
protecting the Everglades for future generations As the Everglades Plan is implemented, w
and will have to make tough choices Corps
of Engineers’ construction and “weed out” projects that are no
longer justifiable. At the same time,
we need more money in order to meet the real needs of this country. We cannot get the job done and save national
treasures like the “River of Grass” with inadequate funding.
most important accomplishment in WRDA 2000 was the
to require a similar level of Congressional
oversight of Everglades
projects as other Corps projects.
T he Administration’s
proposal recommended 10
projects for authorization - at a total cost of $1.1 billion -
without a traditional
feasibility report level
In addition, we reduced the level of programmatic authority for restoration projects that can be accomplished without Congressional review. The levels we set are applicable to other parts of the Corps program.
We also eliminated the provision that would have allowed reimbursement to the State of Florida for the federal share of work accomplished by the state. However, the state retains the ability to receive credit for work-in-kind for up to 50 percent of the work, but only proportionate to appropriated federal expenditures. In other words, they cannot move ahead of federal appropriations.
would like to express my appreciat ion
Bush Administration for andupholding
the Secretary of the Air Force’s decision block ing the
development of a commercial airport at the site of the former Homestead Air
Force Base, which is located within only a few miles of Everglades National
Park, Biscayne National Part, and the National Marine Sanctuary. It would have been irresponsible for the
federal government to approve an investment of billions of taxpayer dollars in restor ation
of the south Florida ecosystem, while, at the same time, approving
plan for the Homestead Air Force Base that is incompatible with such
2000 contained a Sense of the Congress provision expressing e
concerns and I am pleased that the Administration is doing the
right thing. When I take my
grandchildren to visit the Everglades in the next couple of years and we look
up to the sky, we won’t see commercial aircraft disturbing the airspace over
the park or polluting the air.
Today’s hearing is the first oversight hearing on the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in the Senate since the enactment of WRDA 2000.
that there has been a lot of debate
about the Corps’ proposed programmatic regulations for implementing the
Everglades Plan to ensure that the goals and purposes of the Plan are achieved. The primary and overarching purpose of the
plan is to restore the south Florida ecosystem. That is why Congress has committed to paying 50 percent of the
cost of the plan, and why I want to make sure we get a return on
look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about the progress that has been
made during the last two years to implement the Plan. I am also interested in hearing about what we have learned
over these last two years in
terms of science and technology improvements, potential environmental benefits,
and cost s estimates.
I am glad the Department of Interior is here and will testify about efforts to address another threat to the Everglades – invasive exotic species. The Great Lakes, too, are being threatened by aquatic invasive species like the zebra mussel, Asian carp, and sea lamprey. These species are impacting our environment and require our immediate attention.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.