State dollars will be needed to speed federal repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.
Gov. Rick Scott was quick Monday to praise direction given in the proposed budget as solidifying Trump’s commitment to complete the federal dike repairs ahead of schedule.
“Last year, after my meeting with President Trump, he directed the White House Office of Management and Budget to accelerate this funding process, and I have had many follow-up meetings with (office) Director Mick Mulvaney,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “At the state level, we have already dedicated $50 million in state funding to repairs for the dike and this session, I have recommended another $50 million in state funding to continue this important work.”
When pushing for the state to advance money for the dike work, Scott has previously said the federal government would repay the funds, as state lawmakers expressed concerns about putting up money for federal work.
Asked about federal reimbursement, Scott’s spokeswoman Lauren Schenone noted Monday that Congress has failed to pay for the dike repairs.
“(Scott) will continue to work with the federal government and will stop at nothing to protect the communities and our environment surrounding Lake Okeechobee,” Schenone said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated the $1.6 billion project still needs about $776 million and had requested $212.4 million next year to put the work on schedule for a 2022 completion. That would be three years ahead of the current timeline.
Trump’s fiscal package — an outline to congressional budget writers — would put up $96 million from the federal government, and the Army Corps would get another $66 million if the Florida Legislature approves $50 million for the work in the state budget now being put together.
The state would also be expected to put up an additional “$100 million or more by September 30, 2019,” according to the civil works portion of the president’s budget.
Trump’s $4.4 billion fiscal blueprint includes direction for the Army Corps to complete ongoing construction projects before undertaking new work.
“By proposing to not start any new construction projects, the budget enables the Corps to focus on completing these ongoing priority projects faster for less cost,” the 160-page proposal said.
The proposal also “recognizes” that future construction relies less on federal dollars.
“For example, the budget proposes to accelerate repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike through an innovative partnership between the federal government and the state of Florida using a combination of appropriations from the federal government and the state of Florida,” the proposed budget said.
Trump’s proposal is an initial step in the federal process and is likely to undergo major changes in Congress.
The Army Corps since 2001 has spent more than $870 million on projects designed to reduce the risk of “catastrophic failure” to the aging 143-mile earthen dam that also features levees, hurricane gates and other water-control structures, according to the Army Corps.
The Florida Senate’s proposed 2018-2019 budget (SB 2500) includes $50 million for the dike repairs, with the money contingent on the state Division of Emergency Management receiving at least $135 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for states of emergencies, including Hurricane Irma, in 2017.
In October, Trump directed Mulvaney to accelerate the dike work, but his order didn’t include funding or timelines.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, has said that to hit the advanced completion date, the Army Corps would require $212.4 million in fiscal year 2019; $242.1 million in fiscal year 2020; $203.9 million in fiscal year 2021; and $118.2 million in fiscal year 2022.
As part of a spending bill Trump signed Friday, the Army Corps would receive $17.39 billion that, in part, would be used to repair damage caused by natural disasters, construct flood and storm damage-reduction projects and potentially to speed repairs to the dike.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Scott and other officials highlighted their efforts and the potential for the dike repairs to accelerate with signing of the spending plan.
by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida