Congress includes help for Everglades, beaches in major bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Congress is including millions to help with Everglades restoration in a wide-ranging water bill being sent to President Barack Obama.

Congress approved the bill early Saturday morning.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the Everglades restoration funding including in the bill will eventually help reduce the amount of discharges from Lake Okeechobee that has caused algae blooms along Florida's coasts. The bill also includes $121 million for a restoration project in Collier County that is intended to increase water flow.

Nelson's office also said that the water bill includes a $31.6 million beach re-nourishment project for Flagler Beach intended to help protect State Road A1A.

The measure also includes $337 million to deepen the main shipping channels at Port Everglades from 42 feet to 48 feet.

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LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. (AP) --

South Florida water officials are threatening to cancel a lease with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over management of a 144,000-acre wildlife refuge in the Everglades.

The Miami Herald reports that the South Florida Water Management District owns the land occupied by the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, but the federal agency operates the refuge.

State water officials claim the federal agency has done a lousy job of maintaining the refuge, especially when it comes to controlling a fern that has spread throughout the Everglades.

But supporters of the refuge say the threat is more about politics than anything.

They say state water officials just want to end federal meddling in the refuge, and that would give them more control over setting water quality standards.