WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, County Administrator Roman Gastesi and County Director of Legislative Affairs Lisa Tennyson traveled to Washington this week to advocate for federal issues, programs and policies important to the Florida Keys.
They were part of the Florida Association of Counties’ inaugural “Federal Fly-In” outreach activity to enhance FAC’s ability to establish and maintain federal and national contacts and resources.
The group attended briefings Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning in the Rayburn House Office Building on Independence Avenue. Among those providing welcoming remarks was Commissioner Carruthers, who serves as FAC’s Federal Committee Chair.
Florida’s two U.S. Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, both addressed the group. Nelson spoke about the National Flood Insurance Program, Everglades Restoration, Lake Okeechobee funding and Disaster Recovery in Florida. Rubio discussed infrastructure and FEMA’s disaster response.
In the state of Florida, Monroe County is the only local applicant to date to have received any FEMA reimbursement for emergency expenses spent for Hurricane Irma. The County received a $604,000 FEMA reimbursement last week and is awaiting more reimbursement for $31 million in Irma-related expenses already submitted to FEMA.
FAC contingents also were briefed by Joana Savinon, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on Everglades Restoration and Lake Okeechobee funding; Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart on infrastructure and transportation; Congressman Alcee Hastings on the role of counties and Congressional earmarks; and FEMA’s Jonathan Hoyes on Disaster Recovery in Florida.
“Monroe County is proud to be a part of FAC’s first Federal ‘Fly-in’,” Tennyson said. “It can be really impactful for all 67 counties of the nation’s third-largest state to speak with one voice on federal issues and priorities that are important to the state of Florida.”
The Monroe County contingent also held individual briefings on Monday and Tuesday with federal agency officials on a variety of topics.
They met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to express their support of the South Florida Water Management District’s submitted plan to enhance water storage in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). They also were updated on the Army Corps projects in the south end to improve water flow for Florida Bay.
They met with the U.S. Department of the Interior to discuss issues involving the relocation of Atlantic Boulevard, which now divides Higgs Beach and the rest of the County-owned park in Key West. Due to a federal land and water conservation grant the County received in the 1980s that disallows changing the park’s configuration, the County has not been able to relocate the road despite it being a major recreational enhancement to the park. The U.S. Department of Interior oversees the National Park Service, which makes sure the grant conditions are not changed.
They also met with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding an old navigational beacon that takes up a large portion of the same County park that could be put to recreational use. The County has been trying for the past couple of years to the get the antiquated beacon either decommissioned or relocated.