Coalition’s roadmap provides four-year guide for funding needs and timely Everglades restoration projects to complete
Fort Myers, FL – The Everglades Coalition is calling on state and federal leaders to send clean, fresh water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay at its annual conference - Three Estuaries, One Solution, kicking off today. Sending water south is needed to alleviate harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges from covering the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries with toxic algae and polluting public beaches. The coalition will discuss restoration solutions to address these concerns. The conference is open to the public and more than 300 of participants are expected including elected officials, state and federal agencies, academics, nonprofit and business leaders, and community advocates.
At the start of the conference, the coalition released a four-year roadmap highlighting restoration priorities for President-elect Donald Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott, including specific opportunities for project funding, new infrastructure and the timely completion of projects that maximize benefits to the greater Everglades ecosystem.
“Florida has a serious and ongoing water crisis,” said Cara Capp, national co-chair for the Everglades Coalition and Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Three estuaries are in crisis and there is one solution – Everglades restoration. We must have Everglades champions in federal, congressional and state-led leadership roles, from the Department of Interior to the South Florida Water Management District. We must also have a robust financial commitment that includes fulfilling the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) vision of at least $200 million per year from both our state and federal partners to advance the planning, construction and completion of critical restoration projects within the next four years.”
America’s Everglades is recognized as the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project and the past year has yielded significant restoration successes. This includes congressional authorization of the Central Everglades Plan and breaking ground on the next 2.6 miles of bridging along Tamiami Trail, and starting construction of the C-43 West Basin Reservoir.
The coalition’s restoration roadmap for federal and state leaders provides a detailed list of restoration goals that can be achieved within the next four years including:
- Support Florida Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to purchase 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee and expedite planning of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) project.
- Maintain strong bipartisan support and secure financial commitment of $200 million per year from federal and state partners. Doing so will advance planning and projects as outlined in the CERP to achieve the significant economic and ecological benefits of Everglades restoration.
- Promote and continue the 65-year-old partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Allocate funds to control invasive species in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to ensure the long-term viability of the refuge, safeguard wildlife and protect the integrity of the remaining Everglades ecosystem.
- Complete the next 2.6-miles of bridging along Tamiami Trail by 2019. Prioritize planning and appropriations to complete the rest of the 2.9 miles of bridging with groundbreaking by 2018.
“The Everglades Coalition stands in support of Senator Negron’s plan to purchase 60,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and to advance project planning that will send clean water south,” said Mike Baldwin, state co-chair for the Everglades Coalition and Vice President of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, the friends group of the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. “We believe this is an important and common-sense step in solving the water crisis that has been plaguing the Everglades and our estuaries.”
The Everglades provides drinking water to eight million people who depend upon clean, fresh water. This internationally-unique ecosystem is the lifeblood of South Florida’s environment, economy and public health. However, this past year marked one of the worst for Florida’s estuaries. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are inundated with polluted Lake Okeechobee releases while Florida Bay remains starved for more freshwater. “By sending clean water south, as outlined in CERP in 2000, it is possible to restore some of the historic River of Grass,” added Capp. “Doing so will benefit jobs, ecology and quality of life in Florida.”
Conference discussions will also focus on restoration challenges such as protecting marine resources, safeguarding coastal communities from rising sea levels, recovering Everglades wildlife, producing clean energy that does not detract from restoration efforts, and protecting the future of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge from threats to evict federal partners.
This year’s 32nd annual conference is hosted by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Confirmed participants include: U.S. Senator Bill Nelson; Assistant Secretary of U.S. Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General C. David Turner; former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham; Florida Representative Ben Diamond (D, 68); Florida Senator Jack Latvala (R, 16); Monroe County Mayor George Neugent; Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard; City of Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane; Orvis CEO Perk Perkins; University of South Florida Distinguished Research Professor Dr. Reed Noss; Archbold Biological Station Executive Director Dr. Hilary Swain; representatives from the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, SFWMD, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior and members of the Everglades Coalition.
For additional information, please visit the Everglade Coalition website. Follow the conversations online @EverCoalition and #EVCO2017.
About the Everglades Coalition: The Everglades Coalition represents more than 60 regional, state, national and international organizations committed to the restoration of America’s Everglades. The coalition’s annual conference is the largest forum for Everglades conservation and restoration, bringing together coalition members with business leaders, stakeholders, local, state, tribal and federal partners to engage in meaningful discussions about restoring America’s Everglades. Learn more at www.evergladescoalition.org.