Under U.S. Rep. Young's plan, federal restoration money will be tied to certification by four agencies that Florida's doing its part.
By CRAIG PITTMAN and BILL ADAIR
Published June 19, 2003
WASHINGTON - Although the Florida Legislature delayed the deadline for cleaning up the Everglades, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young is using the power of the purse to hold the state to its original commitment.
Before any more federal money is spent restoring the River of Grass, the leaders of four federal agencies must certify that the state is really cleaning up the pollution, a subcommittee Young oversees decided Wednesday.
Young, R-Largo, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said he had the panel attach those strings to the $68-million appropriation because some lawmakers were concerned the state might break its promise to clean up the Everglades.
"The members of the subcommittee were a little put out by the Legislature doing what we consider breaking the agreement," Young said. "We are very much concerned about the quality of water."
Similar strings will be attached to a $120-million Everglades appropriation slated for a vote in July, Young said.
Under Young's plan, the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers and Justice Department will be required to review the state's progress on cleaning up the Everglades.
They must report to Young's committee twice a year on whether "Florida is meeting its obligations to improve the quality of water." The yardstick is contained in the settlement of a lawsuit that requires the state to clean up phosphorus pollution by 2006.
Last month the Legislature passed and Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a bill delaying the deadline by a decade, but a federal judge isn't budging.
Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida hailed Young's action, calling it "a pretty potent measure" to counteract what the Legislature and Bush did.
But Deena Wells, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Florida has not wavered in its commitment to cleaning up the Everglades. "We'll welcome the review of the federal agencies," she said.