Bush vetoes Everglades restoration bill

11/02/07 Mitch E. Perry
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President Bush today vetoed a bill authorizing hundreds of popular water projects – including more than $2-billion for Everglades restoration. But lawmakers say they have enough votes to override him.

Bush brushed aside significant objections from Capitol Hill, even from Republicans such as Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, in thwarting legislation that provides money for projects like repairing hurricane damage, restoring wetlands and preventing flooding in communities across the nation.

If Bush’s veto is overturned, it would be the first time in his presidency.

Bush objected to the $9-billion in projects added during negotiations between the House and Senate, bringing the total to $23 billion. The legislation – known as the Water Resources Development Act – went to Bush last week; he promptly said he would veto it, saying it is stuffed with political pork.

Other groups, like the conservative Heritage Foundation, agree. They call the bill a “Pork Fest for Wealthy Beach-Front Property Owners.”

Congress passed Everglades restoration legislation in 2000 that would devote $8-billion to the project. Funding was to be split between Florida and Washington, but 7 years later, the feds have contributed only $358 million, the state of Florida $2 billion.

Jonathan Ullman is the South Florida Everglades Field representative with the Sierra Club. He says the problem lies in part that real restoration has not occurred so far. He said the projects have been broken up in to two categories.

In addition to the $2-billion in Everglades restoration in the bill, there were hundreds of millions for other water projects in Florida, some of which has been derided as pork. Specifically, the Heritage Foundation called out the $15-million earmarked for a renourishment of Lido Key Beach in Sarasota.

Ullman says the majority of the funding in the Water Resources Development Act goes toward two main projects, the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Project and Picayune Strand in Collier County.

The veto today by President Bush of the Water Projects bill is only his fifth in nearly seven years in office. Authorizations inside the bill also included more than $3.5-billion for major wetlands and other coastal restoration, flood control and dredging projects for Louisiana, where coastal erosion and storms have resulted in the disappearance of huge areas of land.

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