Last Updated: November 10, 2011
Historically the Everglades stretched from the headwaters of the Kissimmee River in Orlando, through Lake Okeechobee, into the Everglades and out Biscayne and Florida Bays, and the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, today, the “River of Grass” has been drained and diverted through so many canals that it no longer supports the web of life that depends upon it.
The Everglades has shrunk to less than half of its former size. Wading bird populations in Everglades National Park have plummeted by over 90%. The water entering the system is polluted with agricultural runoff and high levels of mercury. Coral reefs are dying at a disturbing rate. Recreational and commercial fish catches continue to decline because fish and crustaceans cannot breed as successfully in the coastal areas along Florida and Biscayne Bays.
This devastation is a result of a system of 1,400 miles of canals and levees, built by the Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding and provide water supply for an ever-increasing population. As a result of the unnatural water flow and uncontrolled development, 68 species of plants and animals, including the Florida panther, American crocodile, wood stork, snail kite and Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, residing in the Everglades ecosystem are threatened or endangered.
Restoring the health of the Everglades is vital to protecting Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Dry Tortugas National Park, all of which depend upon this unique ecosystem. The health of the Everglades is essential to the economy and quality of life for all South Floridians and visitors, by providing recreational activities and clean drinking water.
The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the State of Florida and the Department of Interior, are undertaking an unprecedented, multi-billion dollar restoration plan. They will remove levees, fill in canals, reduce agricultural and urban runoff; all in order to reestablish natural water flow and improve water quality within the Everglades. This restoration plan, approved by Congress in 2000 with bipartisan support, is only a plan. Carefully monitoring the implementation process is essential to ensure we achieve the environmental benefits.
NPCA is fighting to improve the restoration plan and focusing on projects such as the “Modified Water Deliveries” and other Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects that will affect the parks. This is the most ambitious restoration project ever attempted worldwide and its success will depend on public and political support and financing sustained over decades.
The numerous projects within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan must “get the water right”--improving water quality, quantity, timing and distribution throughout the Everglades ecosystem for the benefit of our parks and our communities.