Ecosystems are in peril, construction costs are rising and encroaching development threatens the restoration of Florida’s Everglades, while the joint state-federal restoration effort “is bogged down in budgeting, planning and procedural matters and is making only scant progress.” That’s the bleak summary of the National Academy of Sciences’ second biennial report on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) mandated by Congress and released on Sept. 29.

South Florida’s growing population puts pressure on the remnant Everglades.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
South Florida’s growing population puts pressure on the remnant Everglades.

“Future restoration progress is likely to be limited by the availability of funding” and the cumbersome authorization and funding procedures required by law, the report adds. It calls for CERP planners to “move forward expeditiously with projects that have the most potential for contributing to natural system-restoration progress.”

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “doing a lot of things in sync with what the NAS recommends,” says Stuart J. Appelbaum, the Corps’ Jacksonville, Fla.-based deputy for restoration program management. The Corps has done “a lot of work in the last few months” on developing an integrated delivery schedule that melds science, financial authorization and state input “to finish what’s on our plate plus reestablish sheetflow [of water through the Everglades] by 2020,” he says.

The report calls the Mod Waters project to remove barriers to sheetflow “one of the most discouraging stories in Everglades restoration, noting that it was authorized by Congress in 1989 and has not yet been completed. But on Sept. 26, the Corps solicited proposals for a one-mile bridge on the Tamiami Trail to partially accomplish the Mod Waters goal. Bids will be opened on Nov. 10.