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The Restoration

Throughout recent decades there has been a movement towards restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. This ultimately resulted in the Central & South Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study (Restudy) and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The Restudy was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was released in April of 1999. The 4,000 page document chronicles the history of the Everglades and the changes that have occurred due to agriculture and urban development as well as what will likely happen in the future if no action is taken. In order to prevent a complete collapse of the system, the Corps introduced the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan which consists of an almost $8 billion strategy to restore the natural functionality of the Everglades system.

As the name suggests, the CERP document presents a comprehensive strategy covering every possible aspect of the system, but it focuses specifically on water quality and water quantity. The plan promises increased water flow for the Everglades ecosystem as well as increased water availability for the residents of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and the rest of the southeast coast. The existing canals and levees which currently obstruct the water flow will be removed or modified to restore the natural sheet flow throughout the system. Buffer marshes will be built to remove toxins and excess nutrients in the water before it enters the ecosystem. The Corps believes that if these changes are made, the natural flow will be restored and everyone will benefit, wildlife and people alike.

This restoration plan has become a national issue as a number of groups have supported it and Congress has allocated money to start the restoration process. This plan is a milestone in conservation because it takes an ecosystem level approach rather than focusing specifically on one or two endangered species. Also, this is a flexible plan that has the ability to adapt to changing technologies and new science. Many of the proposed projects have never been done before and are completely theoretical. Monitoring and experiments will be conducted throughout, and as results become available, the plan is able to adapt to new ideas or change failing projects.

The next decade could see landmark changes throughout this ecosystem, but success will not be immediately apparent. However, this ecosystem has taken 5,000 years to form and a mere century to be completely altered. It will take several decades for the restoration to take full effect and results may be mixed until then. Ultimately, the goal is not to restore the Everglades to what it was a century ago, because that is impossible due to land loss. Rather, the goal is to restore the historical function to today’s altered system. The future Everglades will not be one that operates independently but will be dependent on man’s canals and pumps to provide the water to support the life it once sustained naturally.