NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Restoration Plan Saves Business, Not The Everglades

June 18, 2001

Last fall, Congress approved the $7.8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan backed by an unlikely coalition of Florida environmentalists, big agricultural business, Indian tribes and developers. It is supposed to help restore the flow of water to the Everglades national park that has been diverted for agricultural and urban use.

However, critics say CERP is not comprehensive, it's barely about Everglades restoration, and -- as the top scientist at Everglades National Park points out -- the Everglades will receive virtually no benefits for the first 10 years and $4 billion of this plan. In addition:

  • CERP, say critics, relies on "adaptive management" -- bureaucratese for trial and error -- and gambles on unproven technology, notably more than 300 aquifers that may not hold water.
  • It also depends on two organizations with questionable environmental credentials: the South Florida Water Management District, a state water supply and flood control agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers -- which left the Everglades in such bad shape in the first place.
  • And it isn't even an Everglades restoration initiative; by law, it's purpose is urban and agricultural water-supply, economic growth and flood control.

A formal guarantee that environmental restoration would be the top priority was deleted. And a Clinton proposal to guarantee extra water to meet the needs of the national park was also rejected. But a proposal to let the rock-mining industry dig up 20,000 acres of additional Everglades wetlands was included.

The main goal of a truly sound plan, say critics, should be to store more water from Lake Okeechobee instead of dumping it into the ocean. But that would involve storing it right below the lake -- on land currently occupied by sugar plantations that are also the main source of water pollution that's destroying the Everglades.

Source: Michael Grunwald, "Swamp Thing: the plan to restore the Everglades is not what you think it is," Slate, June 15, 2001.


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