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Murphy brings a little bit of the Treasure Coast to the floor of Congress

by George Bennett | October 23rd, 2013

That’s not some extreme new flavor of Gatorade in the orange-capped bottle behind Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. It’s a sampling of polluted St. Lucie River water that Murphy brought to the floor of the House today during remarks.

Murphy entered into the Congressional Record the transcript of an Oct. 3 congressional briefing on the state of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. The bottle of dark-colored liquid — which appears around the 4:00 mark in the video — was intended “to educate all Members of Congress of the severity of this problem in our local waterways,” Murphy’s office said.

Murphy also spoke in support of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act being considered by the House today.

Read the full transcript after the jump…

Transcript of Rep. Patrick Murphy’s remarks on House floor:

I come to the floor today to submit for the record the transcript of the bipartisan briefing I recently hosted along with my good friend from the great state of Florida, Trey Radel, on the crucial environmental issues facing our waterways in Florida. During a time of the most discouraging examples of partisan gridlock, we were able to come together with many people on both sides of the aisle to work toward solutions to the ongoing crisis in our waterways.

There is no denying that an environmental crisis is taking place up and down the Indian River Lagoon. Record breaking rainfall, out of date engineering, and urban and agricultural runoff are all damaging our waterways.

To bring attention to this important matter, we invited community members who have been directly impacted by water so polluted with bacteria and toxic algae that health officials told people to avoid contact with the water. In an area where the economy depends on the water for our livelihood, this pollution is having devastating effects. Members of our community took great lengths to make their voices heard in Congress. Many flew up here, or fundraised to be able to take a bus, using money out of their own pocket to make sure Washington heard how they have been directly impacted by polluted and toxic waterways.

Despite the government shutdown and the inability of any federal agency officials to attend, we were pleased to see so many engaged constituents in the room with us as we spoke to many Members who have important leadership roles in the House itself, the Appropriations Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and among the Florida delegation.

At the briefing we not only discussed the problems, but the solutions, both short-term and long-term, that can only come from mutual understanding of the problem and cooperation of local, state, and federal entities. Solutions such as completing Everglades restoration projects like the Indian River Lagoon South project, and funding the completion of C-44 components of this project as soon as possible to grant relief to the already battered St. Lucie Estuary is critical.

We must also fight for quick and effective repairs to the Herbert Hoover dike that will allow for the safe retention of more water in Lake Okeechobee. There was also broad agreement on the importance of passing WRRDA so we can move forward with Everglades restoration efforts that will benefit our community. Additionally, WRRDA will streamline processes so ongoing and future projects can advance more efficiently and expeditiously. It has been almost seven years since the last water resource bill was authorized, stalling progress on vital local environmental projects, so I am beyond pleased to see the House take up this important bill today. After passing WRRDA, we need to continue to pressure for the Chief’s Report for the Central Everglades Planning Project so that these important projects can move forward as well.

In the current “no spending” climate in Congress, it is difficult to fight for funding for these critical projects to address the pollution impacting our local waterways. But there is a difference between smart investments and wasteful spending, which is something I have been working hard to tackle these past 10 months. Infrastructure and environmental projects such as these are not only crucial to improve the health of our waterways but provide a three-to-one return on investment. Furthermore, funding for Everglades projects is equally matched by the state, so that they, too, have skin in the game and highlighting the importance of cooperation across all levels of government to work toward real solutions to address the challenges facing our waterways.

Mr. Speaker, these issues are simply too important to ignore. That is why I am here today with this bottle of polluted river water to show the severity of this ongoing crisis. I remain focused on this issue of great concern to our community, our environment, our economy, and our entire way of life. No one person can make all these things happen. It takes advocacy and action at all levels of government. To that end, I ask unanimous consent that the transcript of this briefing be entered into the Congressional Record following my remarks to educate all Members of Congress on this important issue and the role we all play in addressing it.

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