Everglades Policy (3-24-05)
The Everglades is a wetland system in South Florida comprised in
part of the Florida Bay, Everglades National Park and Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary. Due to the effects of development, construction,
agriculture, and landscape changes for flood control, the Everglades
has shrunk to one-third of its original size with a substantial
decrease in water quality. Since federal involvement in Everglades
restoration began in the 1980's, the scope of the restoration and
the number of stakeholders in the projects have greatly increased.
Recent efforts to implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration
Program have focused measures on restoration of the ecosystem instead
of supporting agriculture and controlling the water supply. As restoration
moves forward, earth scientists provide key understanding of aquifer
recovery, mapping the freshwater-saltwater interface through time,
and tracking chemical changes of groundwater.
On March 22, 2005, Greenwire reported that an internal
agency memo, sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
employees and leaked to the public, shows the Comprehensive Everglades
Restoration Program (CERP) to be severely behind schedule and over-budget.
In the March 7, 2005 memo, Gary Hardesty, USACE's top Everglades manager,
coached employees who are responsible for preparing a 5-year progress
report: "We need to be careful to avoid having this report read
overly optimistic in tone
while the Congress may have a different
impression. We need to be truthful." Hardesty wrote that not
a single project planned for the first five years had been built,
and the budget for the first four projects had already increased by
$1 billion. According to Greenwire, agency officials estimate the
project will cost $5.4 billion more than planned.
"We do need to talk about all that weve done
since 1999, yes, but keep in mind
its different from what
we told Congress we would do...and its not restoration!!! It is far
more important that the 5-Year Report focus more on the strategic
direction of the program over the next five years to rebuild Congressional
confidence or we may lose support and ultimately program funding,"
Hardesty instructed. (3/24/05)
The U.S. EPA approved Florida's cleanup plan for phosphorous
pollution in the Everglades, saying in late January it is in compliance
with the Clean Water Act. Despite objections from environmentalists
and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe, EPA said it would review cleanup
projects on a permit-by-permit basis to guarantee compliance with
the Clean Water Act. EPA said the state must agree to use the best
technology available and is considered in compliance as long as cleanup
officials continue to make progress.
EPA officials did not approve of Florida's plan to protect the 147,000-acre
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach
County, saying the 14 proposed monitors in the refuge were not enough.
Greenwire reported that in 2003, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) signed
a bill giving the sugar industry until 2016 to lower phosphorus levels
in the Everglades to 10 parts per billion. The previous deadline had
been 2006. The sugar industry and state officials had lobbied for
delaying the deadlines because they said the technical demands of
meeting those regulations would take longer than originally thought.
But several members of Congress have warned the bill could imperil
the $8.4 billion federal-state restoration effort.
Representatives from the agriculture industry, which together with
suburban areas create the majority of phosphorus pollution flowing
to the Everglades, told Greenwire they were pleased with the outcome.
However, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Miccosukee Indian
Tribe lawyer Dexter Lehtinen said the plan is too weak and puts an
unfair burden on the tribe, which leases land in the Everglades. In
June 2004, the Miccosukee Tribe and Friends of the Everglades filed
suit in federal court against EPA for failing to review the phosphorous
rules. According to the Miami Herlad, the case is expected to come
before Judge Frederico Moreno of U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Florida as soon as March. (1/27/05)
Land acquisition should be the No. 1 priority in the
30-year, $84 billion Everglades restoration project, according to
a National Academy of Sciences report released on January 24th. "The
worst from the point of view of Everglades restoration would be commercial,
residential and industrial development of the area," states the
report. "The whole plan as it is designed is predicated on being
able to have land that can be restored," said Jean Bahr, a University
of Washington hydroecologist and head of the research team. "The
more land that gets taken out of the potential restoration pot, the
less likely the success."
Greenwire reported that environmentalists applauded this recommendation
and others, including the need for more above ground natural water
storage options, should underground engineered storage prove inadequate.
"The scientists are saying exactly what the environmental community
has been saying for years," John Adornato of the National parks
Conservation Association told Greenwire. "The bottom line is,
we need more surface water storage."
However, both environmental groups and state water managers found
fault with NAS's recommendation to increase storage at Lake Okeechobee.
Chip Merriam, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water
Management District (SFWMD) told Greenwire that simply wasn't an option.
The 14-member review panel of the National Research Council recommended
looking at using the lake and the 500,000 acre Everglades Agricultural
Area "in ways that are not now part of the [restoration] plan."
Environmentalists and biologists have protested previous efforts
to raise Lake Okeechobee water levels because of threats to the lake's
marsh habitat and oyster populations in downstream estuaries. Lake
managers -- the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps
of Engineers -- have tried to keep levels down since protests over
flooding in the late 1990s.
"We're kind of leading with our hearts and our checkbooks,"
said Merriam told the Associated Press. Progress has been made already.
For instance, the Miami Herald reported that SFWMD has purchased more
than 50 percent of the land originally deemed essential to restoration,
in addition to accelerating eight water storage and restoration projects
at a cost of $1.5 billion. (1/27/05)
South Florida's ecosystem is defined by the Everglades -- a subtropical
wetland that includes 16 national wildlife refuges, four nation
park units, 6.5 million people, and a large agricultural economy.
Originally seen an unproductive swamp, the Army Corps of Engineers's
Central and Southern Florida project contained and redirected the
water in 1950's and 1960's to control floods and encourage urban
and agricultural development. Today, instead of a sheet of water
slowly flowing south from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay and
the Gulf of Mexico, water dominantly flows east-west through 1000
miles of canals, 720 miles of levees, and almost 200 water control
structures. The change in water flow has resulted in a reduction
of water flow to the Florida Bay, southern Florida receiving too
much water during the rainy season and too little during the dry,
and the Everglades decreasing to half of its original size with
a degraded water quality.
Federal efforts to restore the South Florida's ecosystem began in
the 1980's, mostly though the coordination of the Army Corps of Engineers.
As restoration efforts continued and other agencies became increasingly
involved, Congress formally created the South
Florida Restoration Task Force in the Water Resources Development
Act of 1996 to coordinate the restoration. The task force, which includes
state, local, and tribal members, with the Secretary of the Interior
as the group's chair, is charged with developing consistent policies,
strategies, plans, priorities, and actions for restoring the Everglades.
The developed plan, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
(CERP), was approved by Congress in the 2000. CERP identified three
restoration goals: to "get the water right" by restoring
natural hydrologic functions and water quality; to restore, preserve,
and protect natural habitats and species; and to foster compatibility
of built and natural systems. To accomplish these goals, the Task
Force has identified over 200 projects to be completed over the next
50 years at a cost of $15 billion.
On May 21, 2003, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) signed legislation
054A) that would revise the state's Everglades clean-up plan.
The bill will extend the time frame over which phosphorus levels in
the Everglades' water must be lowered to 10 parts per billion (ppb)
from 2006 to 2012. On May 27, 2003, the legislation passed the state
Senate by a vote of 43-4 and the state House by a vote of 96-18.
Congress responded to this move in the report (H.
Rept. 108-195) accompanying the Fiscal Year 2004 Interior Appropriations
2691), which expressed concern that the changes to Florida's 1994
Forever Act threaten the future of Everglades restoration. Clearly
stating its position on the State bill and rulemaking process, the
Appropriations Committee calls for "clean water by December 2006,
no mixing zones, no relief from achieving the 10 parts per billion
standard, and restoring integrity to the process." The bill includes
stipulations that Federal funding for Everglades restoration be linked
to specific progress on improving water quality.
Background information was taken from http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/wetlands.html.
Sources: Associated Press, Greenwire, National Academy of Sciences,
The Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Contributed by David Millar, 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Semster Intern; Katie
Ackerly, 2005 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on March 24, 2005.