Did the Biden Administration Really Fail to Support Everglades Project as DeSantis Claims?

After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the Biden administration for not funding a project to reduce agricultural pollution in the Everglades, the state's agricultural commissioner shot back that the governor should instead be thanking the White House for unprecedented spending in the environmentally sensitive area.

The state's Republican governor made the criticism on Twitter Friday expressing disappointment that the Biden administration's infrastructure package did not include money for an Everglades agricultural area reservoir project. Identified as a priority of the governor, the project is intended to reduce harmful discharges and send more water south to the Everglades.

"I will continue to expedite Everglades projects that reduce harmful discharges and send more water south," DeSantis said.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running against DeSantis for governor, had a quick response on Twitter.

"You mean thank you for the $1.1 billion, 'the largest single investment in the Everglades in U.S. history,'" she said.

The tweet, which has been retweeted over 1,200 times as of Friday evening, referenced a South Florida Sun Sentinel article on how the Biden administration had announced more than $1 billion for Florida Everglades restoration on Wednesday.

Florida Everglades
After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the Biden administration for not funding a project to curb agricultural pollution in the Everglades, Florida's agricultural commissioner shot back that the governor should instead be thanking the White House. Above, water vegetation is seen in the wetlands of Everglades National Park, Florida, on September 30, 2021. CHANDAN KHANNA/Getty Images

After being drained for for agriculture, development and flood control, state and federal entities have been trying to restore the tropical wetland Everglades that once covered 11,000 square miles of South Florida, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package signed by Biden last year includes funding for bridges, roads, airports, broadband, waterways and other projects. The White House on Wednesday announced it was directing $1 billion in funding from the bill for "the largest single investment ever to restore and revitalize the Everglades in Florida." The announcement does not mention the reservoir.

The Sun Sentinel article referenced by Fried in her tweet included criticism from U.S. Representative Brian Mast, R-Florida, for not including funding for the reservoir intended to reduce polluted discharges into the ocean.

DeSantis' office also told the paper the Biden administration's funding plan "fails to fund some of the most critical Everglades projects," including the reservoir.

No Republican member of Florida's congressional delegation voted for the legislation, the paper reports.

However, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, issued a statement saying the Biden administration's plan will make a difference in the Everglades.

"The Everglades is the lifeblood of South Florida, and this historic funding commitment by the Biden Administration will ensure we can much more aggressively move to restore and protect the natural sheet flow of water that is the largest environmental restoration project in American history," she said in a statement Wednesday. "The Florida Everglades is a vital source of drinking water and essential to combat climate change and this massive infusion of funding will have the added benefit of creating more jobs."

DeSantis' work on restoring the Everglades has been praised by environmental groups, including Audubon Florida and the Everglades Law Center. Last month, the governor asked the Florida Legislature for nearly $1 billion for Everglades restoration projects.

Newsweek has reached out to Fried and DeSantis for comment.