|2:43 PM EDT||
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL 20th
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express deep disappointment and concern about the severe proposed cut in this bill to the Federal Everglades Ecosystem Restoration effort.
The Energy and Water bill before us today slashes $32 million from the administration's request. These times of tight budgets certainly call for belt-tightening, but cutting 20 percent from the requested amount for Everglades restoration is draconian. It is wildly disproportionate to the more modest 3 percent cut in the bill to the overall fiscal year 12 Corps of Engineers construction fund from fiscal year 11 levels.
I thank my colleague Congressman David Rivera for joining me and other members of the Florida delegation to urge that full funding be restored to this important national priority, as Mr. Dicks just mentioned. I hope we can work together with Chairman Frelinghuysen to make this happen during conference with the Senate.
To be sure, Everglades restoration is a priority the Florida congressional delegation takes very seriously, and we have fought for adequate funding every year. Continued investment in Everglades restoration protects our water supply, benefits key job-creating industries, and enhances our quality of life.
A recent study by Mather Economics, commissioned by the Everglades Foundation, showed that there is a 4:1 return on investment for Everglades restoration projects. The Everglades is the source of water for millions of residents and visitors in south Florida. It is a haven for fishing, hunting, and boating activities and is home to scores of endangered species. There is no other ecosystem in the world like our Everglades, a true national treasure and important resource.
I would ask the chairman of the subcommittee to clarify certain language in the committee's report that we find deeply disturbing. I hope this language does not signal the committee's intent to deemphasize the importance of Everglades restoration in the future. In particular, the language refers to an inability to sustain funding levels and seems to say that the committee views Everglades funding to be inequitable, as if the Everglades has been receiving too much somehow.
I hope I am interpreting the language incorrectly. I hope the committee is not announcing that the Everglades is somehow being deemed as not being a national priority and will not continue to be singled out for cuts in funding from now on. Because, make no mistake about it, the Everglades is a national treasure and has been a national priority, as Ranking Member Dicks pointed out, for the Federal Government since we created the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000.
Eleven years ago, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and from every corner of this great Nation came together with the executive branch and partnered with the State of Florida to embark on the largest ecosystem restoration effort on Earth. We understood then that it would not be easy, or inexpensive, but it had to be done to restore this unique ecosystem. The plan spans three decades, has over 60 component projects, and will take resolve and a sustained commitment to see this project
through to its completion.
The Everglades Restoration Plan was spearheaded by esteemed Senators from around the Nation and both political parties--Republican Bob Smith from New Hampshire, Republican Dave Hobson of Ohio, Democrat Max Baucus from Montana, and, of course, Florida's own Senators Connie Mack and Bob Graham.
Congressman E. Clay Shaw said it perfectly right here on this floor during passage of the restoration plan a decade ago when he said:
``Mr. Speaker, it is remarkable to have this broad a cross section of Americans supporting legislation on any single issue. But protection of the [Page: H4804]
Everglades is a national priority because most Americans speak of this national treasure in the same breath as the redwood forests, the Mississippi River, Old Faithful, the Appalachian Trail, or the Grand Canyon.''
I couldn't agree more; and Presidents Clinton, Bush, and now President Obama share this commitment.
In 2001, George W. Bush said:
``This area needs our protection, and I am here to join with your Governor in the cause of preserving and protecting the Florida Everglades. For its part, the Federal Government carries important responsibilities and stewardship. It is not enough to regulate and dictate from afar. To preserve places like this, we must bring to our work a new spirit of respect and cooperation.''
Again, I couldn't agree more.
History is important. So are the words that we use or do not use. That is why I am deeply disappointed that the chairman has refused so far to state publicly that Everglades restoration is a national priority. I would note that the chairman, speaking on the Energy and Water bill for fiscal year 05, stood here on June 24, 2004, and referred to his own local port and harbor dredging and deepening project as a ``national priority.''
Well, having several ports in south Florida, I would agree on the economic significance of navigation infrastructure. But surely the Everglades, a unique national treasure, rises to at least the same level. We need to look beyond our own State borders and districts when we shape our priorities, as our predecessors did. I hope the chairman will see fit to stand with us now and recommit to Everglades restoration as a national priority.
I yield back the balance of my time.
AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR.