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Congress includes help for Everglades, beaches in major water bill

TALLAHASSEE — Congress is including millions to help with Everglades restoration in a wide-ranging water bill being sent to President Barack Obama.

Congress approved the $10 billion bill early Saturday morning.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the Everglades restoration funding included in the bill will eventually help reduce the amount of discharges from Lake Okeechobee that has caused algae blooms along Florida's coasts. The bill also includes $121 million for a restoration project in Collier County that is intended to increase water flow.

"The toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee are devastating our waterways and doing real damage to our local economies," Nelson said in a statement on his website. "We've been fighting for a long time to get this project approved, and once it's complete we'll be able to send more water south as nature intended and provide more relief to the communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers."

The bill includes a $31.6 million beach renourishment project for Flagler Beach intended to help protect scenic State Road A1A, which is the only north-south hurricane evacuation route for communities along Florida's east coast.

The measure also provides $337 million to deepen the main shipping channels at Port Everglades from 42 feet to 48 feet.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio praised the legislation in a statement on his website: "The passage of this water projects bill is great news, because we now have the opportunity to make real progress in restoring the Everglades and combatting the toxic algae threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Florida families and businesses.''

The bill includes $170 million to address lead in Flint, Mich.'s drinking water and $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California.

Congress includes help for Everglades, beaches in major water bill 12/10/16 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2016 7:35pm]
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