Study Encourages Everglades Land Purchases
MIAMI The state and federal governments should buy more land, and do so quickly, in order to restore the Everglades before the property becomes developed or too expensive in coming years, according to a new report.
The report released Monday is the seventh and final in a series by the National Academy of Sciences to advise federal and state agencies and others engaged in restoring the greater Everglades.
The government is already spending $100 million to $200 million each year to buy land for the restoration, according to the report.
But "it seems certain that some land not soon acquired will be developed or become significantly more expensive before the two-decade-long acquisition program can be completed," the report said. "Protecting the potential for restoration, i.e. protecting the land, is essential for successful restoration."
The 30-year, $8.4 billion federal-state program is intended to restore some of the natural water flow through the sensitive Everglades ecosystem, which once stretched uninterrupted from a chain of lakes near Orlando to Florida Bay.
The report said many parts of the restoration project would involve a lot of engineering and maintenance -- such as one plan to pump water underground for storage. Water would be stored in rainy years and released during dry seasons.
It suggests considering the use of Lake Okeechobee for additional water storage.
The report is saying "exactly what the environmental community has been saying for years," said John Adornato, Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "The bottom line is, we need more surface water storage."
But some oppose storing large amounts of water at the lake because raising water levels there would flood out the lake's marshy wetlands.
David Bogardus, a field officer for the World Wildlife Fund, said he interpreted the suggestion to raise levels at the lake as a last resort. Otherwise, he said, the report's findings were positive.
"It's really groundbreaking for us because it really validates a lot of issues that we've been talking about for a long time," Bogardus said.
Officials at the South Florida Water Management District said they were still reviewing the 140-page report, but pointed out the state has already accelerated several projects.
"We're kind of leading with our hearts and our checkbooks," said Chip Merriam, deputy executive director of the water management district.
Source: Associated Press