U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the U.S. government and the state of Florida began to cooperate in restoring the Everglades to their previous splendor by decreasing the need for Central and South Florida to draw fresh water out of the Everglades.

Summary of Event

Upon authorization of the Water Resource Development Acts of 1992 and 1996, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to review the Central and Southern Florida Project, Central and Southern Florida Project which serves as South Florida’s water management system. In 1999, the Corp of Engineers, with the support of Florida governor Jeb Bush, delivered a detailed plan to Congress to restore the Everglades. Senators George Voinovich, Bob C. Smith, and Max Baucus introduced the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000 with a section that included virtually everything from the Corp of Engineers report. This section of the WRDA was called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP); it became the world’s largest ecosystem restoration effort up to that time. Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Everglades;restoration Florida;Everglades restoration Everglades Restoration Act (2000) Water Resources Development Act (2000) [kw]U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration (Dec. 11, 2000) [kw]Government Funds Everglades Restoration, U.S. (Dec. 11, 2000) [kw]Funds Everglades Restoration, U.S. Government (Dec. 11, 2000) [kw]Everglades Restoration, U.S. Government Funds (Dec. 11, 2000) [kw]Restoration, U.S. Government Funds Everglades (Dec. 11, 2000) Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Everglades;restoration Florida;Everglades restoration Everglades Restoration Act (2000) Water Resources Development Act (2000) [g]North America;Dec. 11, 2000: U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration[10830] [g]United States;Dec. 11, 2000: U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration[10830] [c]Environmental issues;Dec. 11, 2000: U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration[10830] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Dec. 11, 2000: U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration[10830] [c]Government and politics;Dec. 11, 2000: U.S. Government Funds Everglades Restoration[10830] Bush, Jeb Voinovich, George Smith, Bob C. Baucus, Max

The portion of the Water Resource Development Act of 2000 that includes the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was actually an attempt by Congress to correct a mistake made 150 years earlier. In 1850, at the behest of the state of Florida, Congress passed the Swamp and Overflow Act, which turned virtually all of the Everglades over to the state. Florida had been pushing for this because the state wanted to drain and reclaim the land for agricultural development and for a source of fresh water. A large portion of this land was sold to railway companies, one of which attempted to dig a canal to the Gulf of Mexico in order to drain the Everglades. By 1905, the small portion of land that had become reclaimed was found to be extremely fertile for growing oranges, garden vegetables, and sugar cane. This revelation caused increased efforts to drain the Everglades.

Everglades National Park.

(National Park Service)

This continued unabated until 1947, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas Douglas, Marjory Stoneman published Everglades: River of Grass. Everglades (Douglas) This book became the naturalists’ version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906). More important, it outlined many reasons the Everglades needed to be preserved and how the interests of housing developers and agriculture were destroying it. Douglas’s book served as the impetus for President Harry S. Truman to issue the executive order that created the Everglades National Park, which protected more than 1.5 million acres.

In spite of this renewed interest in preserving portions of the Everglades, concerns about floods, which frequently follow hurricanes in South Florida, caused Congress to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project in 1948. The C&SF Project created the most intricate and efficient water management system the world had ever seen. Of course, this resulted in an even greater degradation of the Everglades.

In 1992, concerns about the deteriorating conditions within the Everglades, rapid loss of native species, and rampant pollution caused by agriculture and housing developments caused Congress to authorize the Corps of Engineers to review the C&SF Project. With the assistance of SFWMD and a number of other U.S. government entities, including the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey, the Corps of Engineers began to realize the implications of its work during the C&SF Project. At this point, additional help was enlisted from renowned ecologists, biologists, and geographers to create a plan to restore the Everglades to its original state. The result of their activities was called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The plan was included in the WRDA of 2000 almost exactly as the Corps of Engineers had recommended. This was partly due to some well-timed lobbying on the part of Governor Bush, who convinced the proponents of the WRDA—Senators Voinovich, Smith, and Baucus—that the Everglades, which are integrally linked to the economy of South Florida cities such as Miami, were in dire straits and that the senators needed to adopt the Corps of Engineers’ recommendations. Also, in a relatively unprecedented move, Governor Bush urged the Florida legislature to agree to cover half of the cost of CERP before the WRDA had left committee. This explains why CERP was included in the WRDA and moved through the process with little debate concerning its merit and hefty price tag. The WRDA passed with bipartisan support, and CERP is the largest project included.

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was originally projected to take more than thirty years to complete and was estimated to cost a total of $7.8 billion (by 2007, that amount had already been determined to be a gross underestimation). The provisions of CERP impact sixteen counties and more than 18,000 square miles of wetlands. One of the largest projects is to update the current C&SF Project. A large portion of CERP attempts to fix the environmental problems originally created by the C&SF Project while simultaneously preserving the protections created in that project. In all, CERP includes more than sixty major components.

Perhaps the most important aspect of CERP is its goal to return the water to its natural system. Part of this effort requires that the Kissimmee River, Shark River, and Taylor Slough be restored so that they can, once again, provide water throughout the Everglades. These water sources had been manipulated so that they would not carry as much water, which in turn had significant effects on the areas around them. In order for the Everglades to be fully restored, it is essential that these water sources return to their natural capacities. Once this is complete, it is expected that there will be a ripple effect throughout the rest of the Everglades.

As with any major government project, there have been several complications, which ultimately increase costs. Many residents of the Everglades have refused to move, and they have taken the government to court in order to prevent the use of eminent domain. The project has also faced opposition from housing developers and agriculture interests. In some cases, developers have negotiated deals with the state to allow them to develop a portion of their land in an environmentally friendly way in exchange for selling the majority of their land back to the state. In these instances, the developers anticipate that the pristine environment of a restored Everglades will allow them to sell their homes at a premium. Agriculture interests are not happy about the prospect of having to give up their fertile land. Lawsuits involving these groups tend to be more expensive and drawn out, thus slowing the entire project.

In addition, the project is plagued by typical implementation problems. Until the earliest aspects are completed, most of the other projects cannot begin. The overall project can only progress as quickly as its slowest component. Complicating this further are hurricanes and the fires that are periodically required in order to protect the biological diversity of the Everglades.

Significance

The CERP is by far the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project. It also marks the largest single cooperative agreement between the U.S. government and a state as equals. When the project is completed, South Florida will no longer rely on the Everglades for its fresh water; nonnative and invasive species of plants and animals will have been removed; private land will have been reclaimed through eminent domain; and several species that are currently endangered will have had their natural habitat restored. Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Everglades;restoration Florida;Everglades restoration Everglades Restoration Act (2000) Water Resources Development Act (2000)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carter, W. Hodding. Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from Its Friends, Foes, and Florida. New York: Atria Books, 2004. Outlines several details of the competing interests of conservationists and developers, and how these interests have impacted the restoration process.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pryor, Barbara K. The Role of an Environmental NGO in the Landmark Florida Everglades Restoration: An Ethnography of Environmental Conflict Resolution with Many Twists and Turns. San Francisco: Heliographica, 2004. Details several areas where conflict has prevented the full implementation of CERP.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Environment and Public Works. Implementing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP): Hearing Before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, United States Senate. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004. Outlines the debates, information, and problems that have shaped the implementation of CERP.

Florida Passes the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act

Environmentalists Defeat the Cross-Florida Barge Canal

Clinton Signs Legislation to Help Restore the Everglades

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