Everglades advocates and members of Congress voiced hope Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump will support billions of dollars’ worth of projects to restore Florida’s “River of Grass,” which supplies drinking water to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and more than 7 million people.
While campaigning in Florida, Trump expressed support for restoring “the beautiful Everglades” and for repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
Three Palm Beach County members of Congress and Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said at a Wednesday news conference they hope Trump’s campaign pledge means he’ll back the recently approved Central Everglades Planning Project.
The Central Everglades project — to be financed by $1 billion in federal money and $1 billion from the state over 10 years — is a collection of engineering projects to store, clean and move water south of Lake Okeechobee. It was authorized as part of a water bill that President Barack Obama signed last week, but it requires future congressional appropriations to become a reality.
Overall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates, more than $14 billion is needed to fully restore the Everglades, with the federal and state governments splitting the cost.
More than $2 billion has been spent since 2000 on Everglades projects, which have traditionally won support from Republicans and Democrats alike in Florida.
“It’s always been a bipartisan issue and we would certainly hope that the president-elect would understand why it’s so important, especially to this state that, it looks like, may be home to the Southern White House,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.
“This isn’t just about the environment. It’s about our economy as well. There is a direct correlation – I think that point will probably resononate more than anything else with the president-elect,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is leaving office after losing a bid for U.S. Senate.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said Trump has a personal stake in the Everglades.
“He has a few properties in Florida, so hopefully this will be on his radar,” Frankel said.
Eikenberg joked that the Everglades should not be part of Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.
“Nearly 8 million Floridians rely on this swamp for their drinking water. And if there’s any swamp not to drain, it’s this one,” Eikenberg said.
“The president-elect has talked about infrastructure around the nation. He talks about LaGuardia Airport being a third world airport. I will say that this is infrastructure. These Everglades projects are water infrastructure,” Eikenberg said.
Trump brought up the Everglades during several Florida campaign appearances, including an Oct. 23 rally in Naples.
“A Trump administration will also work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades, which I just flew over,” Trump said at the Naples event.