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Re-Engineering Water Storage in the Everglades: Risks and Opportunities
These principles are discussed in detail in Chapter 3 in the context of sequencing components of the Restoration Plan.
Two other issues are important in addition to those mentioned above. The first—a difficulty acknowledged by the Restoration Plan—is that ecological outcomes are quite uncertain, and some outcomes could be seen as unacceptable. The committee has taken seriously the advice of the 1990s Science Sub-Group of the South Florida Management and Coordination Working Group (Science Sub-Group, 1993) to consider the whole system and to take a regional approach in this regard, and consequently this report examines problems of diminished areal extent of the restored ecosystem, endangered species, invasive exotic plants, and water quality to assess the likelihood that uncertainty can be reduced and its consequences managed, and that unacceptable outcomes can be avoided.
Finally, the report addresses the expectation that adaptive management will provide an early opportunity to repair possible shortfalls in the Restoration Plan. An example of such a shortfall might be the occurrence of a real estate market boom that prevents the planned footprint from being acquired. Because the restored system will be highly engineered, it also will be vulnerable to failure of the engineered systems to function as intended or to unexpected changes in conditions considered external to system design and operation. Examples of the latter are climate change, sea level rise, extraordinary population growth, large-scale land-use change, elevated energy costs, and reduction or elimination of crop subsidies. Adaptive management can lead to the improvement of design details and operating practices within the overall design concept, but it cannot easily address violations of the contextual and efficacy assumptions made in the engineering design. The possibility of unexpected shifts in external drivers should be addressed through concerted attention to contingency planning, including reconsideration of alternatives already discarded such as those related to Lake Okeechobee and the EAA. This planning should be directed at major decision points that have already been passed or that will arrive soon, rather than at fine adjustments of the extant Restoration Plan. Contingency planning should be allowed to lead to re-design of the conceptual plan if that becomes necessary, possibly more than once. The opportunity provided by adaptive management may also yield an early warning of unexpected outcomes and hence the need for implementation of contingency plans.
Chapter 2 describes each of the major storage components of the plan, emphasizing sequencing and water-quality issues and the potential to rely on natural as opposed to engineered processes. Chapter 3 discusses cross-cutting issues that the committee considered in evaluating the science underlying the implementation of the plan, especially with respect to storage. They include the ordering of the Restoration Plan’s components in space and time, including criteria and uncertainties associated with that sequencing; ecological uncertainties; contingency planning; adaptive management; and the relative merits of using natural versus highly engineered processes in the restoration. Chapter 4 discusses the potential need to reconsider the full range of available storage options as an adaptive management strategy during the course of implementation of the Restoration Plan. Chapter 5 suggests a quantitative framework that could be used to evaluate restoration progress and alternatives, including re-evaluation and refinement of restoration goals. Chapter 6 summarizes the committee’s major findings and recommendations.