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White House to spend $14B on Everglades, other infrastructure projects

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White House to spend $14B on Everglades, other infrastructure projects
A pair of American alligators swim at the Royal Palm area of the Everglades National Park. Last year's infrastructure bill will dedicate about $1.1 billion to rehabilitate the ecosystem. File Photo by Michael Bush/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The White House said Wednesday it will invest more than $14 billion this fiscal year from the recently passed infrastructure law in more than 500 projects, the largest of which is a plan to restore Florida's Everglades.

In addition to the Everglades, the projects include expanding the capacity of large ports in locations such as Long Beach, Calif., and fixing aging waterway infrastructure in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

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"These key projects will strengthen the nation's supply chain, provide significant new economic opportunities nationwide, and bolster our defenses against climate change," the White House said.

The White House said the projects include commitments to help underserved coastal communities become more resilient in the face of extreme weather.

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A Great White Heron alights at the Royal Palm area of the Everglades National Park. File Photo by Michael Bush/UPI

Florida

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The Everglades project will receive the largest tranche of funds -- $1.1 billion to rehabilitate the ecosystem and protect it against the effects of climate change. Elements of the restoration include plans to store surface water runoff and minimizing seepage during dry periods.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., thanked President Joe Biden for his efforts to push the infrastructure legislation forward and for his administration's dedication of funding to the Everglades.

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"The Everglades is a beautiful and delicate ecosystem that serves as drinking water for more than eight million Floridians and home to hundreds of endangered plant and animal species. This new funding will significantly boost efforts to make sure that this unique and vibrant environment is kept alive and thriving for future generations," she said.

The Miami Herald reported the federal funding will go toward the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a project approved by Congress for the rehabilitation of the ecosystem. When enacted in 2000, the CERP was initially expected to cost $8.2 billion, but it has since increased to more than $23.2 billion.

The National Park Service, which administers the Everglades, said the more-than 35-year rehabilitation project is the largest ever undertaken by the United States.

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Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., as a Category 4 storm in August 2020. File Photo by PO3 Sydney Phoenix/U.S. Coast Guard

Louisiana

In Louisiana, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said more than $643 million will be allocated to nearly two dozen coastal, waterfall and flood projects. Low-lying and coastal areas of the state has been particularly hard hit by flooding due to hurricanes and tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Louisiana communities have waited years, sometimes decades, to see progress on Army Corps projects," Cassidy said. "This funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package is crucial to protect our state against future Hurricanes and floods. Looking forward to the additional ways the bipartisan infrastructure bill will benefit our state."

More than $378 million of the funds will go toward paying for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Protection System, which Cassidy said represents an over 3,000% increase in the federal funding for the project last year.

The project is a levee, lock and floodgate system to bring Category 3 hurricane protection to more than 150,000 people living in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes southwest of New Orleans. The system also protects about 1,700 square miles of fresh and saltwater marsh ecosystem.

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The Southwest Coastal Louisiana Hurricane Protection project will receive $125 million for similar protections in Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes. Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Cameron, La., in August 2020. The impact of the storm and flooding destroyed of damaged much of the town, which was hit again two months later by Hurricane Delta.

More than $52 million will be earmarked for the Atchafalaya Basin for levee construction and repair, dredging, and surveys, and $2 billion will go toward Hurricane Ida relief.

Shipping containers are transferred to trucks after being unloaded from arriving cargo ships at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., on May 13, 2019. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

California

The Port of Long Beach was one of the locations that saw a backlog of containerships late last year, forcing many of the vessels to temporarily dock at sea while space opened up.

The port will receive $8 million for improvements to commercial navigation and to allow larger and a greater quantity of ships to pass through. The money will go toward widening and deepening the port's pain channel, and building an approach channel and turning basin.

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The administration issued a $52 million grant to the port's on-dock rail facility in December amid the logjam.

Rep. Conor Lamb said much of the Pittsburgh region's economy is dependent upon its rivers. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

Pennsylvania

The Ohio River lock-and-dam system in Beaver County, Pa., will receive about $858 million for repairs. The Montgomery Lock, which first opened in 1936, has about a 50% chance of failure by 2028, according to the Port of Pittsburgh Commission.

"There's literally a crack that spouts water between the two walls of the chambers," commission Executive Director Mary Ann Bucci, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "If that wall collapses and both chambers would be non-functional, you close the Port of Pittsburgh pool down. You know that is our gateway to the Ohio River and vice versa for imports and exports."

Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., said rebuilding the lock system will help strengthen western Pennsylvania's economy.

"River traffic is something few people think about unless it is shut down," he said. "The Montgomery Lock and Dam is nearly 100 years old and if it collapses, we could lose thousands of jobs and add thousands of trucks to our roads, meaning more pollution and traffic."

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Michigan

And in Michigan, the infrastructure plan will dedicate $479 million to build a new lock at the Soo Locks, which allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. The set of parallel locks enable about 10,000 ships to pass each year.

The new infusion of funds will also allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modernize the existing locks.

The new lock, which will ultimately cost $1.2 billion, will be able to accommodate larger vessels.

"After a hard-fought effort, we finally have full funding of the Corp's budget to finish building the new lock at the Soo Locks," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said. "In Michigan, we know how vital the Locks are to our economy and our national defense. We also know that we are on borrowed time until something happens that shuts them down. Thanks to our bipartisan efforts in Congress, and with the President's leadership, we are able to finish this project as soon as possible,"

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