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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 14, 1996


Today I am signing into law S. 640, the "Water Resources Development Act of 1996," which authorizes water resources development projects and programs in support of the Department of the Army's Civil Works mission.

I am very pleased that the Congress has passed this important legislation. It represents the culmination of a 4-year effort on the part of the Administration and the Congress to enact legislation to preserve and develop water infrastructure needs critical to the Nation's safety, environment, and economic security. It will serve to improve the Nation's water-related infrastructure, create new jobs for Americans, and encourage both economic growth and environmental restoration and protection.

This bill represents another important step forward for the Florida Everglades -- one of America's richest treasures. Three years ago, my Administration made the Everglades one of our highest environmental priorities, establishing a special task force to coordinate Federal activities in the area. In February of this year, the Vice President announced our comprehensive program to restore the Florida Everglades. Several weeks later, I signed a Farm Bill that provided a $200 million downpayment on Everglades restoration; it was sponsored by the Florida delegation with support from Republican and Democratic leaders in the Congress. I called on the Congress again to enact our comprehensive Everglades restoration plan.

This legislation enacts the majority of that plan, establishing the Everglades and South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program. It directs the Secretary of the Army to work in partnership with various State and Federal agencies participating in the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to coordinate a long-term restoration effort. It authorizes a number of projects to restore and protect the South Florida ecosystem.

After decades of decline in the Everglades, the people of South Florida and the Nation should take great pride in the steps we have taken together to bring them back. Restoration will take many years of hard work and cooperation, but we know we are on the right track.

Apart from the Everglades provisions, this legislation also includes revisions to cost sharing, which require non-Federal interests to provide a minimum of 35 percent of the costs of both flood control projects and environmental protection and restoration projects authorized in the future. I would have preferred that the non-Federal share be increased to 50 percent and that the new cost sharing apply to projects authorized in this bill. Nevertheless, the changes here represent a significant first step toward greater non-Federal participation in key water resource projects of the future. These changes also represent recognition of the need for non-Federal beneficiaries to share more fully in the cost of such projects in these times of Federal fiscal constraints. Flood control cost-sharing provisions also require the non-Federal project sponsors to develop flood management plans that will help reduce the potential for future flood damages.

I am concerned about the potential overall Federal cost of the bill. Under existing budget constraints, many projects and initiatives authorized by this bill cannot be funded within a reasonable timeframe. Thus, such authorizations may raise unrealistic expectations for non-Federal sponsors who expect timely project initiation and completion. I am also concerned about certain provisions of the bill that assign responsibilities to the Federal Government that more appropriately belong to State and local governments or the private sector, that are inconsistent with established cost-sharing rules, or that authorize projects that are not economically justified.

On balance though, this is important legislation that will not only help save the Everglades, but also promote responsible water resources projects and programs. I appreciate the diligent efforts of all involved to produce a bill that continues the vital role of the Army Corps of Engineers in building and maintaining a strong water resources program. This legislation will continue and in many ways strengthen the Federal/non-Federal partnership principles started in 1986. It will also allow the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain an orderly program for the construction of productive water resources projects.



October 12, 1996.

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