Environment

U.S. and Florida resolve money disputes over two stalled Everglades projects

 

jstaletovich@MiamiHerald.com

Florida water managers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resolved a two-year stalemate Wednesday that has delayed two critical Everglades restoration projects.

The projects, both authorized about two decades ago, will provide necessary links to improving and moving water through the 18,000-square-mile water system.

In one, a series of detention basins in South Miami-Dade County will keep water flowing under a new bridge on the Tamiami Trail within Everglades National Park and help replenish the parched ecosystem.

The second project, nearly 85 percent complete, restores a 9,000-acre floodplain, allowing water managers to store water in the Kissimmee River Basin rather than flush it down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, contributing to toxic algae blooms.

In recent years, both projects stalled as officials argued over land issues and costs. Both projects predate the landmark 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project intended to fix the ailing system, as well as the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), an attempt in 2011 to carve out more manageable projects.

“Realizing our shared goals of moving these projects forward will demonstrate...the strength and success of the long-standing partnership between the state and federal government,” South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Blake Guillory said in a statement.

Just last week, an internal Corps review board failed to sign off on CEPP, frustrating South Florida supporters who hoped to include it in a congressional appropriations bill that is nearly complete. If it doesn’t make it into the bill, supporters worry congressional gridlocks could postpone CEPP for years.

At a hearing Tuesday, Major General John Peabody, the Corps’ deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, said he hoped to hear Friday about what issues delayed the review board’s decision.

Environmentalists hope the announcement signals new harmony between the agencies.

“It’s like a marriage,” said Jane Graham, Audubon Florida’s Everglades policy manager. “I wouldn’t say it’s unhappy, but like all marriages it has issues. And sometimes it just needs a little kick to say, ‘Stop fighting and get it done.’”

The date of the announcement and Jane Graham's last name were incorrect in earlier versions of this article.

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