Some key Everglades restoration projects are behind schedule, the Government Accountability Office says. In a report, released July 2, GAO says 43 of 222 projects in the Everglades restoration plan are completed and 107 are being implemented. But some projects that are most critical to the plan's success are among the 72 that are now being designed, planned or have not yet started. GAO says that some projects are behind schedule by as much as six years.

GAO also says the decision to proceed on specific projects is based more on funding availability than environmental concerns. So far, the federal government and the state of Florida have contributed $7.1 billion. The program's cost grew from an estimated $15.4 billion in 2000 to $19.7 billion in 2006.

GAO recommends that the Ar-my Corps of Engineers be directed to give state and local agencies enough information to let them set project sequencing to achieve maximum environmental benefits. The Defense Dept. said efforts to develop a new sequencing plan are under way.