CANAL POINT, Florida (AP) — President Donald Trump has toured the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee in the key electoral battleground of Florida.
Trump blasted Democrats while touting his administration's infrastructure efforts during Friday's appearance as he surveyed efforts to fortify the aging, 143-mile (230.13 kilometer) earthen dam.
Surrounded by Florida officials, Trump claimed the dam project was "dying until we got involved." He also talked about health care, his new threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border and advertised an appearance later Friday with Small Business administrator Linda McMahon at his Palm Beach estate.
A budget proposal Trump released this month includes $63 million for Everglades restoration projects, about a third of what Florida lawmakers and environmental advocates have requested.
Democrats are urging the White House to add funding.
A group of farming students from Clewiston Christian School were also at Canal Point holding 'Make Lake O Great Again' signs, calling for a reduction to those controversial water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
President Trump's 2020 budget proposal is seeking $63 million for Everglades restoration.
However, environmentalists and high-profile Republican supporters said the budget doesn't include enough money for protecting Florida's wildlife.
On Friday, Sen. Rubio fired off a series of tweets in which he called for at least $200 million to complete several Everglades restoration projects, and said President Trump has a chance to be an "Everglades President."
Important to get details on #Everglades right:— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 29, 2019
1/4: We secured funds last year to speed up & finish Hoover Dike. Because it came from disaster money,it freed up Everglades money to advance other restoration projects: (continued) #Sayfiehttps://t.co/9eerEuk06R
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, and U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney released this statement earlier this month:
"For the third year in a row, the administration’s budget request underfunds critical projects in South Florida. It is incredibly short-sighted to continue to underfund a series of projects that are absolutely necessary to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality of one of the most dynamic regions of our nation. Everglades restoration is critically important to the State of Florida and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Failing to meet the basic federal funding commitments to restore the Everglades is contrary to the administration’s goal of improving project partnerships and cost-sharing with states. Successive Florida Governors have remained committed to this goal, pushing state funding of this 50/50 federal-state partnership to historic highs. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was first authorized nearly 20 years ago, and it is time for the administration to meet that commitment."
Last October, the President signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law, which created a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to filter out toxins that contribute to harmful algae blooms.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working at an accelerated pace to repair the dike.
That work is scheduled to be finished in 2022.
President Trump's visit to Lake Okeechobee comes on the same day he threatened to close the U.S./Mexico border if Mexico doesn't put an end to illegal immigration.