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Re-Engineering Water Storage in the Everglades: Risks and Opportunities
Finding 5. A variety of economic, political, financial, engineering, and other factors and constraints have resulted in a restoration plan that provides most of its ecological benefits towards the end of the process. Some of that delay is unavoidable, because some engineering structures must be in place before other elements of the plan can be implemented. However, the longer the provision of such benefits is delayed, the more likely that continued degradation will occur, that loss of species and habitats will continue, and that at least some political support will be lost as well. These factors argue for increased emphasis on ecological results earlier in the plan.
Recommendation 5. Restoration projects should be implemented in a way that provides benefits to the natural system sooner rather than later by accelerating storage projects that are not as reliant on technology or use short-term storage solutions to achieve benefits to the natural system until more technologically advanced methods are proven. An example of such a benefit to the natural system would be providing more natural flows (in terms of seasonal timing, volume, and flow velocity) to Everglades National Park. Doing so might not require large-scale changes in sequencing; instead, incremental changes could add up to be significant. Immediate action should be taken to identify interim ecological goals for the restoration that can be achieved in the near-term. Interim ecological goals should include preventing changes to the system that may be irreversible in a 50-100 year time frame. Of particular concern are losses of endangered species, expansion of the zones of increased nutrient loading that have shifted parts of the Everglades from oligotrophic to eutrophic systems with associated reductions in species distributions and losses of habitats, and degradation of the underlying topography that has supported the development of the rich mosaic of communities and habitats that is the essence of the Everglades system and maintains its overall resilience in the face of its natural hydrologic variability. (Chapter 3.)
Finding 6. Many projects that will contribute to or otherwise affect the restoration of the Everglades are not part of the Restoration Plan. To the degree that there is coordination or at least communication among those projects, benefits of economy and of effectiveness are likely.
Recommendation 6. Coordination and communication among the various restoration efforts should continue to receive high priority. (Chapter 3.)
Finding 7. Considering the 40-year time frame of the Restoration Plan and perhaps a century of system response, a regional information synthesis center would enable the systematic provision of evolving, reliable knowledge in support of the policy process and the interested public who affect and are affected by the program. Such a center also would help implement adaptive management on a system wide basis.
Recommendation 7. Incorporate integrated assessment models, long-range-development scenarios, and a regional information-synthesis center into an adaptive-management and assessment program in the Restoration Plan. Monitoring is an essential part of adaptive management, and models have the potential to help design, assess, and evaluate the results of monitoring programs. (Chapter 3.)