Everglades Restoration: Largest Environmental Project in American History
June 25, 2002
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, as it is formally known, is becoming a model for other U.S. restoration projects and a blueprint for similar programs worldwide.
Yet despite its $8 billion official price tag -- which has also been unofficially estimated at $80 billion -- experts warn that it isn't remotely clear whether it will actually restore the Everglades.
- Most of the plan's ecological benefits for the Everglades are riddled with uncertainties and have been delayed for decades.
- Many government officials and scientists express grave reservations about the viability of the plan and its ability to achieve its promised goals.
- What is certain is that Florida homeowners, agribusinesses and developers are enthusiastic about the economic benefits they see for themselves.
Experts describe the plan as a vast plumbing project. Originally, when Lake Okeechobee overflowed its southern shore, it created a thin 60-mile sheet of water which ever so slowly flowed through table-flat grasslands down to Florida Bay.
But half the original ecosystem has been paved for development or drained for farming and flood control. The slow-moving sheet flow of only a few inches per second has been blocked and redirected by 1,700 miles of levees and canals, and polluted by urban and agricultural runoff.
Experts say what is coming is not a restoration project at all -- but a massive urban and agricultural water-supply project and an unprecedented federal bailout for a state living beyond its ecological means.
The Everglades has been described as the biggest and meanest swamp ever, nicknamed "the Devil's Garden." Now Stuart J. Applebaum, who is in charge of the restoration for the Army Corps of Engineers, says, "We have no idea if this will work."
Source: Michael Grunwald, "A Rescue Plan, Bold and Uncertain," Washington Post, June 23, 2002.
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