WASHINGTON, D.C. - Amidst the government shutdown, a delegation of Southwest Florida leaders still testified before a congressional committee about toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee in the hopes of getting federal backing for projects to fix the problem.
The federal government is in it's third day of a shutdown, but that didn't stop Congressmen Trey Radel and Patrick Murphy from leading a congressional committee meeting on the topic of Lake 'O' and how the federal government can step in to help local leaders fix the problem.
"We in Florida clearly understand, a healthy environment means a healthy economy,” said Rep. Trey Radel, R-Florida.
The hearing featured local leaders who are working to find solutions.
Dr. Tom Van Lent of the Everglades Foundation sums it up best.
“We have two problems in the estuary. One's a water quantity problem, the other is a water quality problem,” said Dr. Van Lent.
Van Lent stressed that those two problems are very different. He says the water quality issue is a state issue, but water quantity is federal problem, and that's why the delegation came before Congress.
The goal of the hearing is to urge Congress to pass a new Water Resources Development Act. It's a vital piece of legislation that would grant Florida significant funding to take on projects that would ease our current water issues.
But WRDA is a controversial piece of legislation. The last such bill was passed seven years ago.
“In the next Congress, we [will] do a WRDA bill every two years so these things don't languish and hang on the shelves,” said Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Water and Infrastructure House Committee.
There was no opposition to that proposal, but the committee debated which type of fixes should be the priority.
"I'd rather just move to medium term solutions, because we don't have time for long term solutions,” said Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
"You're just trying to squeeze another drop out of this lemon,” said Dr. Tom Van Lent.
“The real solutions are going to be the longer term solutions that redirect the flow."
Policy is still up for discussion, but growing support from ranking members in the House brings us closer than ever to a solution.
“Their support for this elevates this to an issue of national significance,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, D-California
Terrible timing, unfortunately, Congress has their hands full today. Especially bad since the government is trying to reduce expenses. It makes me wonder if this is the best project to present to Congress to start the ball rolling. I would not be surprised if most Americans can't spell the name of the lake, or even pronounce it if they see the name. There are water problems affecting people all over the world, and the company is starting with a lake where few people live, saving fish instead of people. I will be amazed if Congress allocates any money for saving fish. Hoping to be amazed!
The budget crisis is a bad time to be requesting money, I'll have to agree. However, this project brought in some heavy-hitters, and will find support, I'd imagine, from EPA and their supporters, that are together make a very strong lobby. And, it is getting the name of the company, and knowledge of the technology, to be known in a very high and mighty place. Perhaps this is the type of "everything wins" project that will enable the warring congressmen to find common ground. Imagine if this helped the House to get their act together! I wonder if anyone feels a letter-writing response to this presentation--to congressmen--would help? Probably not enough investors to make a difference?