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Re-Engineering Water Storage in the Everglades: Risks and Opportunities
patterns of development continue, development will consume 311,000 acres in the five southeastern counties between 1995 and 2020 (Burchell et al., 1999). The most urgent and overriding sequencing criterion should be to protect from irreversible development all land that is or potentially could be included in the Restoration Plan. This kind of protection can be achieved by acquisition of the land, by obtaining easements, by zoning restrictions, or other methods. In the Restoration Plan, the primary method to be used is acquisition. A large amount has been spent on acquisition (Table 3-1), which reflects a recognition of the importance of protecting land for use in the restoration.
The acquisitions listed in Table 3-1 began in 1991. Before then, Florida had various land-acquisition programs that operated in the region, including the Central and South Florida Project, Environmentally Endangered Lands, Save Our Rivers, and Save Our Everglades. Pre-1991-acquisitions date as far back as 1948 (Water Conservation Areas 1, 2, and 3). The 1991 and subsequent acquisitions reflect the startup of the 10-year Preservation 2000 program ($300 million per year statewide) and its successor Florida Forever program (another 10 years). In addition to those projects, since 1996, Florida agencies have acquired lands using grants from $200 million provided by the Federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 1996 (the Farm Bill) and $151 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (GAO, 2000). For the past several years, the governor and the legislature have pledged to budget $100 million per year for Everglades restoration land purchases. The additional funds for land acquisition (in excess of $100 million) are significant; the average spent yearly from 1999 to 2004 is $128.9 million.
As of June 30, 2004, the estimated amount of land needed for the proposed projects in the Everglades restoration is 405,322 acres, with 206,109 acres (51%) already in SFWMD, state, or local-government ownership (LATT 2004). The figures in Table 3-1 reflect the slightly lower estimates of land needed in the 1999 Yellow Book, with land acquired as of March 2004.
Despite the large amount of money devoted to land acquisition each year, and the large amount of land already acquired, the land remaining to be acquired is so extensive that the plan for land acquisition extends over more than two decades, during which time irreversible development of some land not yet protected is likely and an increase in the price of land is almost certain. To the degree that the land-acquisition part of the Restoration Plan departs from immediate acquisition or protection of all the land in the plan, the outcome of the Restoration Plan risks being compromised. Indeed some land within the footprint of the Restoration Plan already has been lost to uses incompatible with the plan, and further losses are occurring. Land adjacent to or in the CERP footprint and that has a pending application for an environmental resource permit currently is high on the acquisition priority list. Environmental resource permits are required by the SFWMD for activities that could affect wetlands, alter surface flows, or contribute to water pollution. The owners of that land include religious institutions; small businesses; large corporations, including real-estate development; federal and state agencies, and individuals. Land use and application information for those permits is available at http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/reg/rim/cerp/sheet1_1.html.
Provide Ecological Benefits as Early as Possible
As the restoration of the Everglades begins, reductions in distributions of some native species and loss of habitats distinctive of the Everglades continue. There is high potential for these losses to be irreversible. In addition, invasive species continue to increase in number and