A congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council has found that despite the great advances made in Everglades restoration project planning over the last few years actual project implementation has hit a bit of a brick-wall of sorts — thanks, largely, to financial, procedural, and policy constraints.
In order to address these issues — and ensure that restoration occurs and the goals of the Central Everglades Planning Project are met — the report states that “timely authorization, adequate funding levels, and creative policy and implementation strategies” are needed.
In addition to the great many problems already facing the Everglades as a result of human activity, climate change and the accompanying sea-level rise is expected to have a pronounced effect on the environment there. The report notes that this is further stimulus to speed-up restoration efforts.
The new report is the fifth in a series of evaluations of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) — which is a multibillion dollar project launched back in 2000 intended to reverse the decline of the unique region, while also creating a water system to serve “the natural, urban, and agricultural needs of southern Florida.”
The National Academy of Sciences provides more:
According to the report, restoration progress to date has been modest and focused along the edges of the ecosystem. The Central Everglades Planning Project, initiated in October 2011, recommends a suite of projects that would provide substantial new water flow to the central Everglades, equivalent to approximately two-thirds of the new water envisioned in CERP. The committee that wrote the report urged CERP planners and policymakers to find solutions to expedite the project’s implementation in order to avert further degradation of the ecosystem’s core. Without such solutions, water redistribution may not be feasible until 2035 or later, and with the envisioned funding level of $100 million per year, construction would not be completed for approximately four decades.
The report found that the infrequency of Water Resources Development Acts (the congressional mechanism for authorizing CERP projects exceeding $25 million), the availability of funding, and cost-sharing challenges have impeded CERP progress over the past two years. The Water Resources and Reform Development Act of 2014 — the first authorization in seven years — enabled four additional CERP projects to proceed with federal funding, although the Central Everglades Planning Project was not completed in time to be included in the legislation.
The Integrated Delivery Schedule, which lays out construction plans for the next decade, needs to be revisited to incorporate the newly authorized projects and the Central Everglades Planning Project with existing restoration efforts, the report says. Given limited funding, all projects cannot be advanced equally, and planners should consider factors such as possible climate change and sea-level rise to determine which projects have the greatest potential for restoration benefits.
Here’s to hoping that the project gets on-track and achieves it’s goals. As someone who has spent time in the Everglades I can honestly say that their disappearance would be a real loss — the great biological diversity found there, and the sheer strangeness of the swampy landscape isn’t really that much like anywhere else that I’ve been. 🙁
Hopefully the necessary changes will be made and the environment there can be protected to some degree.