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Why Should You Care About The Everglades? (Part 2)

As humans moved in and took over the land of Central and Southern Florida, we were unaware at the time of the massive impact our presence would have on the Everglades.  We also were unaware of how essential the everglades were to our everyday lives!

Since then we have learned that preserving and restoring the Everglades is essential to our continued daily lives.  The Army Corp of Engineers has taken lessons from the Kissimmee River Project and applied them to the Everglades.  Along with Federal, State, and Local officials CERP became the overall plan for restoring and maintaining the natural resources, beauty, and wildlife of the Everglades.

The plan can be complex and hard to understand, but what is important to know is that it has built in accountability.  We will no longer be able to ignore or destroy the Everglades as we have in the past because CERP accounts not only for preservation and conservation of the swamps, but also for human growth and need for space.  It is a comprehensive look at how we can save and live with the Everglades in harmony.

What exactly is CERP? The following information is taken directly from the CERP website and gives a more in-depth look at the plan itself.

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is a framework and guide to restore, protect, and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida.

The Plan has been described as the world’s largest ecosystem restoration effort and includes more than 60 major components.

Because the region’s environment and economy are integrally linked, the Plan provides important economic benefits.

Thus, the Plan will result in a sustainable south Florida by restoring the ecosystem, ensuring clean and reliable water supplies, and providing flood protection.

What is the plan?

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan provides a framework and guide to restore, protect, and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida, including the Everglades. It covers 16 counties over an 18,000-square-mile area, and centers on an update of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) Project. The current C&SF Project includes 1,000 miles of canals, 720 miles of levees, and several hundred water control structures. The C&SF Project provides water supply, flood protection, water management and other benefits to south Florida. Since 1948, the C&SF Project has performed its authorized functions well. However, the project has had unintended adverse effects on the unique and diverse environment that constitutes south Florida ecosystems, including the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The Water Resources Development Acts in 1992 and 1996 provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the authority to re-evaluate the performance and impacts of the C&SF Project and to recommend improvements and or modifications to the project in order to restore the south Florida ecosystem and to provide for other water resource needs. The resulting Comprehensive Plan is designed to capture, store and redistribute fresh water previously lost to tide and to regulate the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water flows.

The Plan was approved in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. It includes more than 60 elements, was estimated to take at least 30 years to complete and originally estimated to cost $7.8 billion in October 1999 dollars (or at 1999 price levels).

The major Plan components are:

  • Surface Water Storage Reservoirs
  • Water Preserve Areas
  • Management of Lake Okeechobee as an Ecological Resource
  • Improved Water Deliveries to the Estuaries
  • Underground Water Storage
  • Treatment Wetlands
  • Improved Water Deliveries to the Everglades
  • Removal of Barriers to Sheetflow
  • Storage of Water in Existing Quarries
  • Reuse of Wastewater
  • Pilot Projects
  • Improved Water Conservation
  • Additional Feasibility Studies

Getting the water right is the critical part of restoring the south Florida ecosystem. The Comprehensive Plan will do this, and its benefits are not dependent on other efforts. But the Comprehensive Plan is also part of a larger effort to restore the ecosystem and provide for a sustainable south Florida. A strategic plan entitled Coordinating Success: a Strategy for the South Florida Ecosystem was developed under the direction of the South Florida Ecosystem Task Force by federal, state, local and tribal leaders. And it is updated along with the Biennial Report Tracking Success every two years. Over 200 projects are tied together under the strategic plan. The Task Force provides guidance to each project from a larger perspective and works to resolve disputes.

Getting the Water Right

The Comprehensive Plan is the cornerstone of getting the water right because it addresses the problem on a regional basis. There are, however, other Corps projects of a more limited scope that work toward restoring and enhancing the natural system. The Corps has been working on the restoration of the Kissimmee River since the late 1990s that will return the natural areas of the river and improve wildlife habitat in the northern part of the greater Everglades system. Two other projects are underway to return water flows to Everglades National Park through Shark River and Taylor Sloughs, two historically important water “channels” for the River of Grass.

State and Local Efforts also Address Water

Water quality problems are being addressed by the state through the multi-step Everglades Construction Project that uses wetlands for storm water treatment areas and encourages best management practices to reduce pollutants in runoff from cities and farms. The South Florida Water Management District is also developing regional and sub-regional water supply plans to provide for better water resources management. The photo to the right reflects a pumping facility under construction adjacent to the Everglades National Park.

Restoring and Enhancing the Natural System

Efforts to restore and enhance the natural environment are also taking place at the region-wide level as well as on a smaller scope. These efforts focus on two primary components: species diversity and habitat protection. For example, the Multi-Species Recovery Plan, developed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides a comprehensive strategy to address habitat needs of the 68 endangered species in the area. Another example, the Corps’ Environmental Impact Statement for Southwest Florida, will provide a comprehensive framework for evaluating future requests for development permits.

Transforming the Built Environment is Another Goal of the Overall Restoration Effort

Growth issues are being addressed at the state and local level. Efforts to balance growth and resource protection, as well as efforts to enhance the quality of life in urban areas are all important to the overall ecosystem. The Florida initiative called Eastward Ho! will redirect future development into the historical eastern corridor, revitalizing older urban areas. The broad effort by Miami-Dade County to address land use and water management will determine the future economic, social, and environmental sustainability for most of urban and rural Miami-Dade County. The joint state and Corps effort under the Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study provided an information base for managers to make decisions about balancing economic and environmental needs.

Efforts by federal, state, local and tribal entities represent the commitment of all to have a comprehensive and integrated strategic plan to achieve restoration and sustainability. The Comprehensive Plan complements these efforts.