Everglades Plan Approval Spurs on Restoration
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Aug. 14 approved landmark agreements that allow federally funded work on key Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects.
"The agreements signed today move America's Everglades significantly closer to realizing restoration goals," said SFWMD Governing Board Chair Eric Buermann. "With our shared goals memorialized in these historic accords, we can now press forward with our federal partners to build on Florida's achievements, bring projects to completion and accomplish the important vision of reviving America's Everglades."
In the most significant of the agreements, the Governing Board approved the Master Agreement, which serves as the umbrella accord between the district and the corps to govern all CERP projects. The Master Agreement is an essential step necessary for the corps to begin work using an infusion of approximately $115 million received this year in congressional appropriations for project construction.
"The robust partnership forged and strengthened during the negotiation of these significant programmatic accords serves as a model of federal and state cooperation to achieve vital goals," said Terrence “Rock” Salt, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, who joined in the signing.
Key features of the Master Agreement include:
- Focusing on "mutuality" and strengthening the state-federal partnership for Everglades restoration by establishing joint decision-making by the SFWMD and the corps.
- Establishing and defining conditions under which the corps and SFWMD will achieve a 50-50 programmatic cost-share on design and construction of CERP projects.
- Defining conditions for the corps to provide 50 percent of the annual costs for operations and maintenance of all CERP projects, an important cost-sharing provision authorized by the U.S. Congress.
While the Master Agreement provides the framework for restoration efforts, project-specific agreements, known as Project Partnership Agreements, are also needed. These are required for the federal government to initiate construction on specific projects. They also provide project-specific credit to the SFWMD for its land acquisition and project construction efforts completed so far.
The Governing Board approved the Picayune Strand Project Partnership Agreement, defining the terms, conditions and responsibilities specific to this restoration project. The agreement allows the corps to begin investing $65 million in stimulus funding and Congressional appropriations to continue construction on the Picayune Strand Restoration Project.
The corps' effort on Picayune Strand will build on the significant progress made at this restoration site by the state of Florida and the SFWMD, including investing approximately $150 million to place 55,000 acres in public ownership, filling and plugging 7 miles of the Prairie Canal, completing 25 percent of road removal necessary for restoration and restoring 13,000 acres of natural habitat.
A 50-50 partnership between Florida and the federal government, the CERP provides a framework and guide to restore, protect and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida. The state and the South Florida Water Management District have invested approximately $2.4 billion toward this effort, including approximately $300 million in construction. Through June 30, 2009, 59 percent — or approximately 230,000 acres — of the estimated lands needed to implement CERP have been acquired.
For more information, visit www.sfwmd.gov/everglades.
For more information on restoration progress in the Everglades, read Reviving the River of Grass for further details.