Summary of Hearings on Everglades Restoration (7-23-04)
- March 26, 2003: House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Everglades Oversight
- July 22, 2004: House Transportation
and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
hearing, "Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: The
First Major Projects".
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
"Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: The First Major
July 22, 2004
Honorable Mark Foley, State of Florida
Colonel Robert M. Carpenter, Commander, Jacksonville district, U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, Florida
Ernest Barnett, Director of Ecosystem Projects, Florida Department
o fEnvironmental Protection, Tallahassee, Florida
Doug Smith, Chairman, Martin County Board of County Commissioners,
April H. Gromnicki, Everglades Policy Coordinator, Audobon of Florida,
John Burns, Chairman, Independent Scientific Review Panel, Indian
River Lagoon South Project, Springfield, Virginia
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee
on Water Resources and Environment met July 22nd to assess the progress
of Everglades restoration and discuss the authorization of two large-scale
projects. Witnesses from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State
of Florida, and environmental and science groups testified
in support of the reauthorization of the Indian River Lagoon and Southern
Golden Gates Estates projects, which will cost $1.2 billion and $360
million. Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) also provided testimony
to the subcommittee in support of the projects.
The $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, under the
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000, provides a framework
for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the South Florida
ecosystem. Nine smaller Everglades restoration projects are already
in process or completed, although larger projects such as Indian River
Lagoon and Southern Golden Gates must be authorized individually.
Witnesses urged the subcommittee swift authorization of project funds,
even though actual appropriations may not be available until FY 06.
The Indian River Lagoon project has received a significant amount
of local support. Martin County, Florida, residents voted for an increased
sales tax to provide nearly $50 million for necessary land purchases.
Under WRDA, states and the federal government provide matching funds
for restoration projects, although land acquisitions are not counted
as project expenditures. To date, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
has spent an estimated $150 million on Everglades restoration, while
the Florida has spent about $915 including critical land acquisition.
Witnesses testified that the two projects up for authorization are
critical to Everglades restoration. The Indian River Lagoon project
aims to redirect and store water directed into wetlands by an earlier
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control program. The water will
be used in other areas where it is needed. The Golden Gates project
will restore wetlands and improve salinization problems. Witnesses
emphasized benefits to the local economy, water supply, and flood
prevention programs. Subcommittee chairman John Duncan (R-TN) and
subcommittee members expressed support for authorization although
they pressed witnesses for reassurance that the selected projects
are the best places to direct funding. They maintained that the two
projects were carefully chosen and will provide a significant boost
to restoration efforts. John Burns, chairman of the independent scientific
review panel that reviewed the Indian River Lagoon project, said that
the panel saw nothing from a scientific perspective that should prevent
authorization of the projects. The panel has made several recommendations
for the for the Indian River site including modeling and evaluation
of the following systems: climate, sea level, hydrologic cycle, ecology,
and muck and sediment transport.
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior
and Related Agencies
Everglades Oversight Hearing
March 26, 2003
Ann Klee, Director, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force, Department of the Interior
Barry Hill, Director, Natural Resources and Environment Team,
U.S. General Accounting Office
Dr. Linda Blum, Chair, National Research Council Panel to Review
the Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative
On March 26, 2003, the House Appropriations Subcommittee
on Interior and Related Agencies held a hearing to examine the
role of science in the comprehensive Everglades restoration project.
Witnesses discussed two recent reports that examined various aspects
of the Department of the Interior's (DOI) efforts in South Florida.
The U.S. General Accounting Office released South
Florida Ecosystem Restoration: Task Force Needs to Improve Science
Coordination to Increase the Likelihood of Success at
the meeting, and the National Research Council (NRC) witness discussed
and the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration, an NRC
report that was released prior to the hearing.
Barry Hill testified that GAO identified gaps of
vital scientific information in the Everglades restoration project.
The knowledge gaps occurred at different levels, from the ecosystem
level (e.g., the effects of invasive species, pesticides, and
pollutants) to project levels (e.g., understanding water salinity
in Biscayne Bay). Also, he said the Everglades project lacks the
proper coordination, direction, and resourses needed to carry
out its responsibility. Dr. Linda Blum, chaired the NRC panel
focused on DOI's Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI),
reported that CESI has produced valuable knowledge, but needs
to improve data synthesis in order to create a restoration-wide
approach and aid in management and organization. Blum emphasized
that synthesis is a scientific endeavor in itself and does not
simply occur through data management.
During the question and answer session, many subcommittee
members expressed concern about the lack of scientific coordination
efforts and asked if DOI was an equal partner in the Everglades
restoration project with the State of Florida and the Army Corps
of Engineers. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) questioned whether DOI's
science could play an important role in restoration since it did
not appear to be an equal partner. Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) said
that he wanted to see DOI as an equal partner in the final regulations.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) voiced concern that the environmental
interests are not being properly considered, and that DOI is not
always at the table as a complete partner. He emphasized that
DOI and the Army Corps of Engineers have different interests in
the restoration efforts, and that DOI should be looking out for
the interests of the nation. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) mentioned
that it is difficult to restore the Everglades without rolling
back agriculture or other developments. Hill agreed with the subcommittee's
comments, saying he was concerned that a lack of cohesion between
agencies is resulting in a lack of a comprehensive ecosystem perspective.
He suggested that the DOI needed an overall restoration science
plan to identify the work that needs to be accomplished. Ann Klee,
Director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
and counselor to Interior Secreatary Norton, adamantly defended
the DOI's role in the Everglades restoration project, especially
in the Restoration Coordination and Verification (RECOVER) program,
which includes a large scientific component. She conceded that
the Science Coordination Team was underutilized, but stated that
this was because the past two years have been spent developing
a legal framework for the Everglades project.
The implementation of better adaptive management
techniques was also discussed at length. Klee told the subcommittee
that adaptive management will help the task force evaluate where
science is lacking and to appropriately prioritize the 68 Everglades
projects. She also said adaptive management would help improve
implementation within the overall priorities if the projects
are designed to incorporate engineering flexibility. Dicks asked
if a lead scientist was needed to provide better coordination.
Klee said a lead scientist was not needed. The task force is
aware that it might not have all the science before starting
a particular project, but Klee believes adaptive management
will aid them to incorporate developing science and to examine
priorities on an iterative schedule. Blum commented that the
ecosystem holds many undiscovered surprises, and therefore it
is important to continue to pursue science throughout the restoration
Sources: Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern and Bridget
Martin, 2004 Summer AIPG/AGI Intern.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on July 23, 2004