TAMPA, Fla.— After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently pummeled our coasts, Environment Florida warned that pending budget proposals from the Trump administration and Congress threaten key programs that protect our communities from storm-related impacts. The group documented threats to programs that prevent or curb flooding, sewage overflows and leaks from toxic waste sites. Environment Florida also called for preventing more global warming-fueled extreme weather in the future.
“If there is any lesson to be learned from these devastating hurricanes, it’s that Florida deserves better shelter from the storms,” said Jenna Stevens from Environment Florida. “Rather than protecting our most vulnerable communities, budget proposals on the table in Washington, D.C. right now threaten coastal resiliency, remove protections for flood-absorbing wetlands, neglect funding for stormwater and sewage treatment, and expose more Americans to toxic chemicals.”
Environment Florida’s analysis found:
Wetlands are nature’s flood control, and here in Florida we have 9.8 million acres of wetlands. The House budget and Trump administration block the Clean Water Rule, leaving flood-absorbing wetlands more vulnerable to pollution and degradation.
Here in Florida we receive $4.94 million in grants that allow our communities to protect their coasts from storms and rising seas. These funds would be cut or eliminated under both the House and Trump administration’s budgets.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provided $45.1 million in 2016 for Florida to repair and build stormwater and sewage treatment infrastructure. Nationwide, our wastewater systems face a $271 billion backlog, yet the House and President’s spending bills fail to provide proper funding to this critical program.
Beth Alden, executive director of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Office echoed the need to prioritize infrastructure investments, “Making basic investments in stormwater infrastructure can save Tampa Bay residents hundreds of millions of dollars when a big storm hits.”
Dr. David Kaplan, director of the University of Florida Center for Wetlands, and University of Florida Professor Emeritus Peter Sheng also joined Environment Florida in releasing the analysis.
“The 2015 Clean Water Rule helps protect wetlands and streams that are critical for supporting clean water and healthy ecosystems,” said Kaplan. “Rolling back this federal protection threatens these valuable natural resources directly, and also has the potential to severely impact downstream aquatic resources by increasing flooding, sedimentation, and nutrient pollution.”
Dr. Peter Sheng, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, Civil and Coastal Engineering discussed the importance of the Sea Grants program to coastal communities.
“The Sea Grants has been supporting the development of a coastal inundation system which can supplement the information provided by NHC and FEMA to help coastal communities to prepare and to plan for evacuation in a timely manner,” said Sheng.
Prioritizing wetland and stream conservation is critical for protecting the health and sustainability of both human and natural communities.
“We need to make sure our communities are less susceptible to flooding, sewage overflows, and leaks from toxic waste sites, and of course we need to prevent even more intense global warming-fueled extreme weather in the future,” said Stevens.
Environment Florida called on the U.S. Senate to pass a budget that prioritizes family health and community safety.
“We’re counting on Senators Nelson and Rubio to protect Floridians and pass a budget that will give Floridians more shelter from the storms ahead,” Stevens concluded.
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Environment Florida is a statewide, citizen based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open space.