In 2000, legislation to restore the Everglades created a partnership between the US federal government and the state of Florida to undertake the largest environmental project in US history called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Under this agreement, saving the Everglades would take 30 years, and the burden of cost (estimated at $10 billion) would be split equally between the partners. Unfortunately, the federal government has not been forthcoming with the funding for restoration until now.
In 2000, Congress allocated $1.4 billion in federal funds as a down payment on the Everglades restoration project. Under the Bush administration, funding was not forthcoming. In fact, Bush vetoed a $21 billion federal water preservation bill which included almost $2 billion for Everglades restoration. Furthermore, Bush’s U.S. Department of the Interior pressured the United Nations’ World Heritage Committee to remove the Everglades from the endangered list.
Fortunately for the “River of Grass”, the Obama administration has not forgotten the Everglades. $96 million of the $4.6 billion federal stimulus package earmarked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects will go towards Everglades restoration. Additional funding of $183 million will come from the Congressional spending bill that passed last month. Specifically, the money will be used for:
- Construction of a reservoir to improve the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
- Restoration of 55,000 acres of the Picayune Strand wetlands in Southwest Florida
- Upgrading of the Tamiami Trail
- Restoration of the Kissimmee River
- Restoration the Big Cypress National Preserve
- Removal of invasive plants
- Repairs on Lake Okeechobee’s dike
- Various pilot projects and studies
Environmentalists are applauding Obama for funding Everglades restoration, as the Palm Beach Post explains:
The Everglades’ stimulus money is a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars that Congress promised in 2000 – and so far, has failed to provide – for its half of a $10.9 billion state-federal restoration plan. Still, Everglades advocates cheered.
After eight years of stalling by the Bush administration, the Everglades may finally be on the restoration path again. Thus far, the state of Florida has outspent the federal government six to one on Everglades restoration. The $279 million dedicated by Obama for CERP marks the single-largest amount that Congress and the White House have allocated since the project was created in 2000.