Advocates join state, federal agencies at groundbreaking
On Oct. 21, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Environmental Policy Director James Evans joined state and federal agencies, members of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and fellow Everglades advocates in celebrating the groundbreaking of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) South.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and leadership from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and other federal and state agencies involved in Everglades restoration spoke.
“As one speaker after another talked about the unique characteristics of the river of grass, emphasizing the ecological and economic significance to our national and state economies, we were reminded of the importance of restoring this ecological treasure,” Evans said.
The CEPP South project is a critical piece of the puzzle for moving water south from Lake Okeechobee, through the central Everglades, and into Everglades National Park. It is part of the larger CEPP project, which includes a suite of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects aimed at moving more water south.
“It is important for the coastal estuaries because, when combined with the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir, it will significantly reduce the frequency and duration of damaging high-volume discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie, while rehydrating Everglades National Park and Florida Bay,” Evans said. “The project is designed to double the capacity of water that can be moved into Everglades National Park. “
The various components of CEPP are scheduled for completion by 2028. It will require state and federal funding to get the projects to the finish line. Annual funding for Everglades projects for 2021 is estimated at $508 million, with $250 million from the federal partners and $258 million from the state. Everglades restoration is an investment in the future and is projected to provide $4 to the state’s economy for every $1 invested.
“Through these important capital investments in Everglades restoration we can see a day in the not-so-distant future where our coastal communities don’t have to rely on the impulses of mother nature to determine if we will have a good year or a bad year,” Evans said. “We just need the political will to keep these important Everglades projects funded and moving forward so that we can attend the next important groundbreaking.”