THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES:
RESTORING ONE OF AMERICA'S GREAT NATURAL TREASURES
The Clinton-Gore Administration, in partnership with the State of Florida, is proposing a bold plan to restore an extraordinary but endangered natural treasure - the Florida Everglades. The $7.8 billion Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study, submitted to Congress on July 1, 1999, will nearly double the amount of fresh water available South Florida, ensuring clean, plentiful flows for the Everglades, and adequate supplies for the region's cities and farms well into next century.
An Endangered Ecosystem. The Everglades - an American treasure unlike any place else in the world - are dying. Historically, shallow sheets of water flowed slowly south from Lake Okeechobee to form the unique watery landscape dubbed the "River of Grass." Over the past half century, levees and canals built to control floods and deliver water to farms and growing communities have deprived the Everglades of 70 percent of their historic flows. Roughly half the Everglades have been lost to agriculture and development. Populations of wading birds have plummeted 90 to 95 percent. Scores of species are gone or - like the American crocodile and Florida panther - in danger of extinction. From Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park to the rich coral reefs of the Florida Keys, the entire South Florida ecosystem is in peril.
An Economy at Risk. In the 50 years since Congress authorized the Central and Southern Florida Project - a 1,700-mile network of levees and canals -- South Florida's population has grown nine-fold to more than 6 million. But as demand for water outstrips supply, shortages are becoming more and more frequent. With the region's population projected to double by 2050, worsening shortages will put is economic health at risk. Meanwhile, continued environmental decline threatens to undermine the region's thriving tourist economy.
Getting the Water Right. The Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study, or Comprehensive Plan, represents an historic opportunity to save the Everglades and ensure a sustainable economic future for South Florida. Its principal aim is to capture and clean much of the water that now flows unused to sea and deliver it when and where it is needed most.
When completed, the Plan will generate an additional 1.1 million acre-feet of water a year. Eighty percent of the "new" water will be committed to environmental restoration, with the remaining 20 percent ensuring adequate supplies for cities and farms through 2050. Rebuilding the region's water system to more closely mimic nature's design will:
Help restore more than 2.4 million acres of the south Florida ecosystem;
Improve the health of Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the continental United States;
Guarantee increased flows to Everglades National Park; and,
Revive Florida Bay and the Florida Keys, with the most extensive coral reefs in North America.
How the Plan Will Work. The Comprehensive Plan includes more than 60 major components to increase water storage, improve water quality, and allow better control over the timing of distribution. Key features include:
raising 20 miles of highway, and removing 240 miles of levees and canals, to help restore natural "sheet flows";
181,250 acres of above-ground reservoirs with a capacity of 1.54 million acre-feet;
300 wells to store water in, and retrieve it from, underground aquifers;
35,600 acres of wetlands to naturally filter polluted runoff;
reuse of 220 million gallons a day of wastewater.
Sound Science, Flexible Implementation. The Comprehensive Plan - the largest ecosystem restoration ever proposed -- is based on the best possible science, with input from scores of experts in a dozen fields. But there is much we do not know, and it is impossible to predict exactly how a dynamic living system like the Everglades ecosystem will respond. The Plan is designed to be flexible so adjustments can be made as more is learned. In addition, an independent Science Review Panel to be named shortly by the National Academy of Sciences will closely monitor the Plan's implementation and recommend changes when needed.
The Next Step. Once authorized by Congress, the Plan will take more than 20 years to construct at a projected cost of $7.8 billion. The cost is to be shared equally by the federal and state governments. Later this year, the Administration will propose legislation to be incorporated into the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 to approve the Plan and authorize an initial round of projects. This initial package, with a projected cost of $1.2 billion, includes six pilot projects and ten major components that will take advantage of lands already acquired and provide immediate system-wide benefits in water quality and distribution.
Additional information on the Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study can be found on the Web at www.restudy.org.