Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D)

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Congressman Alcee L. Hastings

November 3, 2011: Hastings’ Statement for Everglades Restoration Hearing
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Today, I submitted the following statement for the record at a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs of the House Committee on Natural Resources regarding Everglades restoration:

“Chairman Fleming, Ranking Member Sablan, thank you for holding this hearing. The Everglades make up a large portion of my Congressional district and is also crucial to the health and prosperity of South Florida. I welcome this opportunity to offer my statement concerning this national treasure.

“The Everglades used to cover all of South and Central Florida. This marshy foundation on which our communities today are built means that our homes are still subject to the same vulnerabilities and problems as the parts of the Everglades that remain wild. We are so dependent upon their waters, in fact, that the Everglades are the source of clean drinking water for much of the region. Everglades restoration is about keeping our communities healthy and having enough safe water to drink, not to mention the added benefit of creating thousands of badly needed jobs in the process. Restoration is a win-win for everyone.

“The Everglades are essentially one massive, slow moving river. The water flows from the top of Lake Okeechobee all the way down and out to the ocean. The water within the boundaries of this proposed wildlife refuge and conservation district is the same water that flows down across the entirety of the Everglades system.

“It is wrong to compare the funding for one aspect of Everglades restoration to another. You cannot store and move water if the water is not clean. Pitting one project against the other draws a line that doesn’t exist in reality. Despite different names, these projects are all crucial to restoration efforts and an integral part of the same central project. The Headwaters Refuge is a part of that same overall restoration plan. This refuge and conservation area will go a long way toward helping ensure that we have clean water today, tomorrow, and for future generations of Floridians.

“Restoration is also necessary because it will have economic benefits on top of those that I have already discussed. It will create thousands of jobs that are desperately needed in the region. Everglades restoration returns fourfold on every dollar invested. Wildlife refuges are likewise economic engines that are well worth the investment. The only way to lose money on this project is to not do it.

“Unfortunately, these restoration projects do not address all the problems facing the Everglades. Invasive species pose a real danger to native plants and animals. Just last week, a 15 foot Burmese python was discovered to have eaten a 76 pound deer. This is yet another clear example of why we need to invest in the restoration of the Everglades.

“This River of Grass is not just our home, it is our legacy. It is the water we drink, the home for wildlife that exists only in the Everglades, and a place like nowhere else in the world. Furthermore, it is home to many endangered species like the Snail Kite and Roseate Spoonbill, the only habitat in the world where crocodiles and alligators coexist, and the only home on Earth for many other species of animals and plants. To let this special, unique place be destroyed would be a tragedy to our environment and the State of Florida.

“Restoration efforts have made great progress recently and it is important we build upon that success. For example, construction has already begun on the Tamiami Trail, the Picayune Strand, Site 1 Impoundment, Indian River Lagoon, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands and the C-111 Spreader Canal projects. We have done a lot to secure clean water for the future, but there is still a long way to go.

“Restoration efforts will take quite some time and there is no justification on any level to call these efforts into question. After all, the state the Everglades today is the result of decades of damage. It should come as no surprise that there is no quick-fix. We should not be discouraged by the hard work ahead of us. We must be willing to put in the commitment and sacrifice to get this right. Tampering with the natural flow of the Everglades has put our communities at risk for flood and drought, while simultaneously threatening the habitats of endangered and unique species. To simply call it quits because the task may be too daunting is not an option.

“Mr. Chairman, there is a reason that the Everglades project is as big as it is, and yet continually receives widespread bi-partisan support. In short, the Everglades is a national treasure that South Florida cannot survive without. Once again, I thank the Committee for this time and urge it to continue supporting Everglades restoration efforts.”

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