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Last updated: January 18, 2013


 

Dept of Interior - People, Land and Water
Restoring South Florida's Future
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The Recommended Plan: The Everglades Restudy

Susan Jewell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Everglades Restudy, officially known as "The Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study", blends the needs of the environment with the needs of a growing population, uses an adaptive management approach, but considers ecosystem restoration its major goal.

Led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Restudy team includes representatives from six federal agencies, as well as Florida state agencies and non-government groups. More than 160 individuals from about 30 organizations make up the team. The federal members include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Map of restudy
Map of south Florida showing resevoirs, estuaries, wetland treatment areas, basins, and an Aquifer Storage and Recovery area.(Click on the map above for a full-sized version.)
The Restudy area includes 13 national wildlife refuges, four national parks, a national marine sanctuary, and Miccosukee and Seminole tribal lands. Scientists from Interior agencies have worked tirelessly on the team reviewing alternative plans modeled by computers. The USGS Biological Resources Division, for example, is working on a computer model that helps the Fish and Wildlife Service determine what effects the alternative water scenarios will have on wildlife species. Dubbed ATLSS (for Across Trophic Level System Simulations), the model uses ecological data on selected species, such as water depth for wading bird foraging, and varies the water patterns to see when or where the birds will be able to feed.

The Restudy team examined many alternatives, but the recommended plan (selected as the draft submitted for Congressional approval) is called D-13R. It was designed to restore the Everglades and the estuaries while improving the supply of water for urban and agricultural users by removing or adjusting structures, using strategically placed technologies, and carrying out carefully timed operating plans. The plan calls for 68 separate projects, including removing some dikes, canals, and pump stations while adding others; 44 of the works would be completed by 2010. The proposal incorporates an adaptive management approach that allows the project to benefit from knowledge gained as the work progresses. Future modifications can be made in the design, construction, or operation of the system should research and/or practical experience suggest the need for changes.

Among the specific features of the plan that were sought by environmental agencies are those that protect estuaries from unbalanced freshwater discharges; improved water flow to Everglades National Park; reconnected marshes currently divided by levees or canals; restored sheetflow where feasible; provided a physical and hydrologic buffer from the urban areas; and improved water quality. For example, one of D-13R's components will reconnect Water Conservation Area 3A together by backfilling the Miami Canal and another by breaching the L-67 Canals.

In a letter to Congress accompanying the plan, the Corps of Engineers declared unequivocally that the "primary and overarching purpose of the Comprehensive Plan is to restore the south Florida ecosystem." The pledge addressed concerns that Florida's urban and agricultural interests had overly influenced the Corps to emphasize the water supply component of the project. Conservationists believe it is critically important that the new water control system is operated in a way that helps the environment. Farmers and urban utilities have been assured that the replumbing would not reduce their water supplies.

While the estimated price tag of $7.8 billion may cause many Floridians to gasp in shock, a few comparisons provide perspective. The costs of current public works projects around the country include: $1 billion for improvements to Interstate 595 in Ft. Lauderdale; $4.75 billion for improvements to Miami International Air-port; $8.5 billion for the New York City Water Tunnel; $9-10.5 billion for the CALFED Bay-Delta Program; and $10.8 billion for the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel.

Such costly projects are approved regularly without the concern, and often the awareness, of the public. For the Everglades restoration project, the costs, which are to be shared by the Federal Government and the State of Florida, seem a small price to pay for a world-renowned ecosystem.

The plan has undergone intensive public review and major revisions. It has been presented at 11 public meetings in south Florida and one in Washington, DC. The Corps has done a monumental job of leading the process. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement alone is about 3,500 pages. In south Florida, the Corps is developing a reputation for pursuing ecological restoration. For more on the Restudy proposal, visit http://www.evergladesplan.org (formerly the Restudy at www.restudy.org).


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: 18 January, 2013 @ 05:39 PM (KP)