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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bush vetoes bill to restore Everglades



As expected, President Bush today vetoed a bill from Congress that was intended to revive the flagging Everglades restoration effort and help with post-Katrina reconstruction in Louisiana.

Bush Administration officials have said the $23-billion Water Resources Development Act is too expensive. But the bill passed Congress in September by a wide margin --  81-12 in the Senate and 381-40 in the House. That means there were far more votes for the bill than the two-thirds that would be required to override a presidential veto.

As a result, Congress is expected to hand President Bush his first-ever veto override early next week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House is scheduled to vote on the override Tuesday, and he expects enough Republican support for the override to pass. No date for the Senate vote has been set yet.

“No single bill Congress approves this year will have as much positive impact on Florida’s environment than this," Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said.

WRDA bills authorize federal spending on water-related projects, usually handing the money to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Normally Congress passes a WRDA bill every two years. But the last one passed in 2000. That was the WRDA bill that authorized launching the Everglades restoration project, then assessed at $8-billion over 20 years.

The Everglades project was supposed to be a 50-50 effort by the state and federal governments. When efforts to pass a new WRDA bill bogged down in unrelated issues, including efforts to reform the Corps, much of the federal funding for Everglades restoration dried up. The state has been carrying much of the financial load, leading to criticism that the state's spending priorities are aimed at supplying water for South Florida's continued growth, and not saving the Everglades.

The bill Bush vetoed also includes $1.9-billion for Louisiana coastal-restoration projects, more than $880-million for a levees and floodwalls to shield some Louisiana parishes from future hurricanes and authorizes spending an unspecified amount of money on fortifying New Orleans' levees to withstand a 100-year storm.

--Craig Pittman and Wes Allison

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:25am]


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