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Revive the Everglades ecosystem

 

I appreciate the Aug. 18 article Despite Lake Okeechobee dumping, dike danger continues to rise, and the Aug. 5 editorial, No time to lose, highlighting the unfortunate flooding taking place right now at Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. Unfortunately, this is something that we see all too often in South Florida — the inability to let the water flow south from Lake Okeechobee as intended and the subsequent destruction of our coastal estuaries because of the massive influx of highly polluted freshwater, which endangers public health, our economy and the Everglades.

We must remain focused on the solution. Bridging additional miles on Tamiami Trail accompanied with the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) are vital to restoring the ability to move water south through the Central Everglades and to avoid flooding the coastal estuaries.

Leadership by the National Park Service (NPS) is helping to move the planning forward for additional bridging on Tamiami Trail, a road that has acted like a dam blocking critical water flow south to Everglades National Park.

The next critical step is for NPS leadership and Congress to find funding to pay for the next phase of bridge construction. Through CEPP, state and federal partners have identified projects that will deliver 67 billion gallons of freshwater per year to the Central Everglades, significantly reducing these damaging discharges to the estuaries.

The finish line is in sight. The Army Corps and the South Florida Water Management District must stay on schedule to approve CEPP, and Congress must authorize it in the Water Resources Development Act when they return to Capitol Hill in September. Congress, federal agencies and the state of Florida must do what it takes to advance both Tamiami Trail bridging and CEPP, or else the greater Everglades ecosystem will continue to be on life support.

John Adornato III, Sun Coast regional director, National Parks Conservation Association, Hollywood

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