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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 5 Progress Toward Natural System Restoration In the first 6 years after the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000) was authorized, actual construction progress has been limited. This is not surprising given the complexity and scope of this effort, the rigor of the project planning and approval process, and the sizeable program support efforts under way (see Chapters 3 and 4). Nevertheless, there have been significant developments that will affect the future course of the restoration. This chapter assesses the general accomplishments in the Everglades restoration with respect to implementing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and other major non-CERP projects since 1999 when the CERP was authorized. Because this committee is charged specifically with evaluating progress in restoring the natural system, this chapter highlights both the accomplishments in project implementation for the CERP, including land acquisition, and critical ongoing restoration activities outside of the CERP. However, not all projects are discussed in detail. The committee chose to focus on those projects that represent important accomplishments or highlight particular concerns regarding progress in restoring the natural system. Additional detail on implementation progress can be found in the CERP Annual Report (SFWMD and FDEP, 2004), Tracking Success (SFERTF, 2005), and the 2005 CERP Report to Congress (DOI and USACE, 2005). CERP COMPONENTS The 2005 CERP Report to Congress (DOI and USACE, 2005) details progress on implementation of each authorized CERP project and pilot project (see Appendix A). All these details will not be repeated here. Instead the committee discusses particular individual projects, including aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) and the accelerated CERP projects (Acceler8),
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 and cumulative effects deriving from several projects that have important implications for progress in restoring the natural system. Aquifer Storage and Recovery Storage of water is at the heart of the effort to restore the Everglades. A brief examination of the CERP components (Figure 2-4) shows that most of them either directly or indirectly involve storage. Water storage components in the CERP include existing facilities (Lake Okeechobee and the Water Conservation Areas [WCAs]) and new components consisting of conventional aboveground surface reservoirs, in-ground storage in limestone quarries in the Lake Belt region west of Miami, and belowground storage using ASR. ASR represents about 26 percent of new water storage capacity, considering expected inflows to storage during a year of average rainfall (see Table 5-1). Although smaller than the new surface reservoir storage, all storage is important to the CERP, and alternatives to 573,310 acre-feet per year of ASR storage are not readily available. Additional water will also be made available through seepage management and water reuse and conservation projects. Strictly speaking, seepage management and water reuse are not water storage projects, but they affect the overall water budget and ultimately the amount of storage required for restoration of the natural system (see NRC  for further discussion on the role of ASR and other project components to meet the CERP’s storage needs). ASR involves pumping water into subsurface aquifers through deep wells for storage and then recovering the water when it is needed by extract- TABLE 5-1 Average Storage Capacitya of CERP Storage Components Storage Component Average Annual Acre-feet of Storage Percent of Total Storage Percent of New Storage Lake Okeechobeeb 2,537,300 40 Water Conservation Areasb 1,633,200 26 Conventional Surface Reservoirs 1,279,270 20 59 Aquifer Storage and Recovery 573,310 9 26 In-ground Reservoirs 323,100 5 15 Total 100 aDefined as expected inflows to storage during a year of average rainfall. bNo new storage is provided by these two components under CERP, but modified operating schedules have been developed through modeling. SOURCE: NRC (2005).
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 FIGURE 5-1 Idealized ASR system. SOURCE: NRC (2001). ing water from the same wells (Figure 5-1). Of the storage elements in the CERP, ASR has been the most controversial because of its unprecedented scale. Although ASR uses established technology, most current ASR installations are local, at the site of a municipal water treatment plant, for instance (Pyne, 1998). In contrast, the Yellow Book plan included 330 wells as part of the CERP ASR installations over broad areas of the South Florida ecosystem (Figure 2-4). No major storage facilities have yet been constructed, although several are in the detailed design and pilot project design report phases (see Appendix A). The estimated completion dates of the three pilot projects designed to investigate various ASR feasibility and design issues have been delayed by 4, 6, and 8 years (see Table 3-3), in part because of the effort on the part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to address critiques and additional technical issues (Box 5-1). Exploratory well drilling is under way, and, once the
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 BOX 5-1 Summary of Prior NRC Recommendations on ASR Research Needs NRC (2001a, 2002a) identified three general areas of aquifer storage and recovery where better understanding was needed: the regional hydrogeologic framework to allow construction of a regional-scale numerical model of groundwater flow, biogeochemical changes associated with storing surface water in the aquifer to provide information about whether the recovered water will be “suitable” for human consumption and use in the oligotrophic ecosystem, and local hydrogeologic constraints on water storage capacity and recovery. Specific ASR issues raised by NRC (2001a, 2002a) included the following: considering the threat of fracture of confining layers due to ASR pumping pressures, characterizing the vertical and horizontal heterogeneity through additional well tests during pilot studies, better understanding potential geochemical reactions, deemphasizing continuous coring to save costs, performing column studies to better understand interactions between microorganisms and subsurface materials, adding more ecological indicators to bioassay studies to better understand community and ecosystem-level effects, extending bioassays and biological monitoring beyond the initial proposed 6- to 12-month cycles, and better understanding the implications of release of high-hardness recovered water from the ASR wells into the Everglades ecosystem. pilot wells are constructed, the pilot projects will address issues such as water quality, hydrogeologic considerations for well placement, multiple-well interactions, and optimum design. Hence, the observed delays in ASR implementation should ultimately yield scientific and engineering information that will save time and money when implementation occurs as well as to test the feasibility of the technology when applied at this scale in the CERP. Thus, the delays are to some extent a consequence of adaptive management. CERP Response to ASR Issues Because of the important role that ASR plays in providing adequate water storage for the CERP and because of the technological challenges
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 associated with employing ASR on such a broad scale, the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Committee on the Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem produced two reports (NRC, 2001a, 2002a) focused on uncertainties associated with ASR and made recommendations about ways to reduce those uncertainties (see Box 5-1). The USACE and the SFWMD have been very responsive to input provided by the NRC, especially with respect to ASR. The ASR pilot projects were redesigned in part to address the concerns outlined in Box 5-1, including incorporating a regional perspective, considering the biogeochemical consequences associated with storing water in the aquifer, and considering the efficiency of recovery of water stored in the wells (USACE, 2004). Most significantly, the current pilot projects consider the ecological consequences of ASR on the South Florida ecosystem. The USACE and the SFWMD also developed an ASR regional feasibility study (i.e., the ASR Regional Study1 ) to complement the pilot projects. The regional part of the study focuses on scientific rather than engineering or operational questions, and a large component of the regional study involves developing a numerical model of regional groundwater flow. The committee is impressed that the USACE has taken on this important but costly and complex study. The combination of pilot studies, a regional feasibility study, and contingency planning is an excellent active adaptive management approach to an unproven technology such as ASR in the initial stage of CERP implementation. As mentioned above, ASR pilot studies have been delayed by as much as 8 years, but when completed will offer adaptive management options for modifications to the ASR strategy, if needed, including a contingency plan for surface storage in lieu of some portion of ASR storage. Summary of ASR Pilot Studies to Date ASR pilot projects are located in five different regions of South Florida (Figure 5-2). Each of the pilot projects is near a major CERP feature and is expected to test conditions at sites planned for large ASR well fields. The status of the pilot projects varies. For example, the funding for the construction of water treatment plants required for undertaking cycle testing of the Kissimmee River ASR wells has been delayed, but partial funding is expected to be provided for fiscal year (FY) 2006. Completion of ASR installation and testing at the Hillsboro site, begun in December 2005, is now 1 Further information on the ASR Regional Study can be found online at http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_44_asr_regional.cfm.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 FIGURE 5-2 Locations of the ASR pilot studies. SOURCE: USACE (2004). planned for February 2007. Expected completion of the Port Mayaca treatment plant, where the impact of multiple-well testing will be examined using a three-well ASR cluster, is farther in the future (FY 2007). ASR appropriations have been somewhat delayed, so the pilot projects are not as far along as expected. Pilot projects have not revealed any fatal flaws in the original CERP ASR plan (USACE, 2004), but, based on the results of the pilot projects and the ASR Regional Study, the committee anticipates that details of the CERP will have to be modified through the adaptive management process to ensure adequate performance. For example, some of the 200 wells planned for north of Lake Okeechobee may need to be re-sited due to insufficient aquifer transmissivity, location of existing well users, source water quality, or other reasons. A framework for ASR feasibility in brackish waters characteristic of most of the deep aquifers of South Florida has been developed by
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Brown (2005). Ultimately, the exact number of ASR wells in support of the CERP may be different than originally envisioned. Although it remains to be seen whether ASR will be able to supply the amount and quality of water needed to carry out the CERP, no findings that necessitate a rethinking of the CERP have emerged to date (USACE, 2004). However, the committee notes that a contingency plan in the event that elements of the ASR (or the planned number of wells) cannot be implemented due to irresolvable technical issues still has not been completed. Acceler8 On October 14, 2004, Governor Jeb Bush unveiled an ambitious plan to accelerate the restoration of the Everglades. Dubbed “Acceler8,” the plan will hasten implementation of 8 projects (representing 14 project components, see Box 5-2 and Figure 5-3), contributing a sizeable portion of the state’s commitment to the CERP ahead of schedule. Only 1 of the 8 projects—the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) Expansion—is not part of the CERP. The objectives of Acceler8 are to provide immediate environmental, flood-control, and water supply benefits and to serve as a foundation for subsequent restoration efforts. Generally, the Acceler8 projects had long been slated to occur early in the CERP (see Chapter 3 for a more detailed discussion of project sequencing). Projects are anticipated to be implemented quickly because most of the land for the projects is already in public ownership. The proposed schedule for initiation and completion of Acceler8 projects calls for construction on all projects to begin prior to November 2007 and to be completed by December 2010. Given that the state of Florida has proposed investing at least $1.5 billion of its CERP cost-share budget during the next decade in Acceler8 projects, it is important to assess the potential contributions of those projects to the quality, timing, and distribution of water to the South Florida ecosystem, including coastal estuaries, Lake Okeechobee, Biscayne Bay, and Florida Bay. Acceler8 is intended to yield the following benefits for Everglades restoration: completion of project components 11 years ahead of the previously planned schedule, thereby saving large sums of money; provision of about 50 percent of the planned surface-water storage components; earlier improvement of water deliveries to estuaries; earlier improvement of Lake Okeechobee habitats; earlier improvement to water quality; and earlier improvements in water flow and timing patterns. The following discussion examines some of these benefits in greater detail.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 BOX 5-2 Acceler8 Projects The Acceler8 projects are as follows: Indian River Lagoon-South: C-44 (St. Lucie Canal) Reservoir STA. A 4,000-acre, 10-foot-deep aboveground storage reservoir and STA. Real estate: 96 percent acquired as of July 2006. C-43 (Caloosahatchee River) West Reservoir. An aboveground reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River with a storage capacity of 160,000 acre-feet. Real estate: 100 percent acquired as of May 2006. Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir—Phase 1. An aboveground reservoir with a capacity of 190,000 acre-feet. To be constructed on a 16,700-acre parcel of land north of STA 3/4. The project also includes conveyance capacity increases for the Bolles and Cross canals. Real estate: 100 percent acquired as of August 2006. Everglades Agricultural Area Stormwater Treatment Area Expansion. Will expand STA-2 by 2,000 acres and expand STA-5 by 2,560 acres. Real estate: 100 percent acquired as of May 2006. Water Preserve Areas. A series of five projects adjacent to the WCAs in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties (C-9 Impoundment, C-11 Impoundment, Site 1 Impoundment, Acme Basin B, and WCA 3A/3B Seepage Management); will require construction of aboveground impoundments, wetland buffer strips, pump stations, culverts, canals, water control structures, and seepage control systems. Real estate: 98 percent acquired as of November 2004. Picayune Strand (Southern Golden Gate Estates) Restoration. Restores natural water flow across 85 square miles of western Collier County. The project includes 83 canal plugs, removal of 227 miles of roads, and construction of pump stations and spreader swales to aid both in rehydration of wetlands and to provide flood protection for the Northern Golden Gates Estates residential area. Also provides sheet flow of water to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Real estate: 97 percent acquired as of May 2006. Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands—Phase 1. Involves design and construction of two flow-ways, located at Deering Estate and Cutler Ridge, to restore the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of fresh water to Biscayne Bay. Real estate: 70 percent acquired as of May 2006. C-111 Spreader Canal. Involves construction of pump stations, culverts, a spreader canal, water control structures, and an STA. An existing canal and levee will be degraded to enhance sheet flow across the restored area. Real estate: 73 percent acquired as of May 2006. SOURCE: http://www.evergladesnow.org. Projected Water Quality Benefits Acceler8’s major contributions to water quality are provided by the new STAs that have been proposed as components of three of the projects. Given their locations, the two STA expansions in the EAA could contribute
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 FIGURE 5-3 Map showing locations of the Acceler8 projects. SOURCE: http://www.evergladesnow.org/. to water quality improvement in the Everglades ecosystem by reducing concentrations of contaminants in waters that might be released from the EAA to the WCAs. The C-44 STA is designed to improve water quality in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. Water quality enhancements included in the C-111 Spreader Canal project might benefit water quality in
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Barnes Sound and Florida Bay. Indirect water quality benefits due to sedimentation and biological uptake of phosphorus may also accrue from storage within the EAA reservoir. Projected Water Quantity Benefits Combined, the Acceler8 projects will add over 400,000 acre-feet of water storage to the existing aboveground water storage capacity of the Central and Southern Florida Project. The EAA Reservoir—Phase I, with a storage capacity of 190,000 acre-feet, constitutes a substantial contribution to the regional water supply, but how much of that water will be allocated to agricultural needs and how much to the natural system has not yet been established. USACE and SFWMD (2006) give a positive evaluation of the proposed project, stating, “For the most part, modeling results indicate that the EAA Storage Reservoir project is beneficially affecting flows to WCA 3A, 3B and Everglades National Park.” The corresponding assessment by the Restoration Coordination and Verification (RECOVER) program in the same revised draft project implementation report (PIR; USACE and SFWMD, 2006) notes that the EAA reservoir will benefit Lake Okeechobee by reducing water supply releases and leaving more water in the lake for the natural system, but the benefits to the Everglades ecosystem appear less clear. RECOVER’s assessment of benefits south of the lake suggest that the EAA reservoir may result in “some small differences” in water flow patterns within the Everglades ecosystem in the wettest and driest years, although no significant differences were noted over the entire modeling period. However, optimism is compromised by simulations that show generally higher inflows to WCA 3A in wet years and lower inflows during some dry years than under current conditions. Revisions to the EAA modeling continue, so it is difficult for the committee to evaluate the overall impact of the EAA reservoir on water quantity for the natural system at this time. The C-44 and C-43 reservoirs (see Figure 5-3), which represent approximately 40,000 and 160,000 acre-feet of new storage capacity, respectively, are intended to moderate flows into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries under both low- and high-water conditions and to provide an additional source of water to address agricultural water supply needs. The Indian River Lagoon PIR notes that current water quality concerns in Lake Okeechobee will prevent the use of the C-44 reservoir to return water to the lake for restoration purposes or to supply increased flows to the Everglades ecosystem (USACE and SFWMD, 2004). The water to be stored in the Water Preserve Areas east of the Everglades could be pumped back into the Ever-
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 glades ecosystem, provided that it would meet quality standards, although the storage reservoirs for the C-9 and C-11 impoundments are much smaller (6,600 and 5,960 acre-feet, respectively) than the other Acceler8 reservoirs to the north (USACE and SFWMD, 2006). Modeling to quantify the benefits of these projects has not been completed, and water reservations concerning the “new” water captured by the Acceler8 storage projects have not yet been finalized. The result is uncertainty in the future delivery of benefits to the South Florida ecosystem. Benefits to the Timing and Distribution of Water Deliveries Several Acceler8 projects address the timing and distribution of water in the South Florida ecosystem. The storage capacity of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs will enable managers to greatly reduce undesirable large discharges of fresh water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and thereby improve ecological conditions. The EAA reservoir will also reduce the burden on Lake Okeechobee storage for moderating flows to the estuaries. Model predictions suggest that the EAA reservoir will reduce damaging high lake stages during wet conditions, although the reservoir could lower lake stages during drought conditions (USACE and SFWMD, 2006). Large volumes of water that currently seep beneath levees L-37 and L-33 on the eastern boundaries of WCA 3A and 3B, respectively, will be retained in the WCAs by the WCA 3A/3B Seepage Management component of the Water Preserve Areas project. This project component is expected to conserve about 129,000 acre-feet annually (NRC, 2005). The Biscayne Bay and C-111 Spreader Canal projects will improve timing of water deliveries to Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, respectively. Altering the distribution of water to the Everglades ecosystem to mimic more closely the original timing and flow patterns depends on both the quantity of water that can be distributed and the constraints on its distribution imposed by canals and levees. Two Acceler8 projects will remove structures that currently constrain the distribution of water—the C-111 Spreader Canal project and the Picayune Strand—although neither of these projects affects flow patterns in the central Everglades (see Figure 5-3). Summary of Contributions of Acceler8 and Implications for CERP Projects The Acceler8 projects represent only a portion of the overall CERP effort, but Acceler8 may provide momentum to other restoration projects by hastening early construction efforts. As the projects are currently conceived, their benefits will primarily accrue to the northern part of the system (i.e.,
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Okeechobee and the WCAs, remain high, but they are lower than they would have been without the effort devoted to the matter. As a result, the incursion of cattails into areas previously dominated by sawgrass is almost certainly less than it would otherwise have been, although it does continue in some areas (see Chapter 2). The committee strongly encourages the restoration program to continue its phosphate-reduction efforts, including research. The primary tools used to achieve this objective are construction of STAs and institution of best management practices (BMPs); considerable progress has been made with both. The following discussion focuses on STAs and BMPs south of Lake Okeechobee, for which considerable monitoring data exist, recognizing that similar efforts are also occurring elsewhere in the Everglades watershed. Stormwater Treatment Areas Once Acceler8, the CERP, and the Everglades Construction Project5 are completed, six STAs will be located within the EAA (Figure 5-7). Other STAs in basins tributary to Lake Okeechobee include those in or near Taylor Creek and Nubbin Slough and in the Lower Kissimmee Watershed. The six STAs in the EAA that affect water quality in the Everglades are either entirely or mostly completed (Table 5-2). Planning for the six STAs in the EAA predates the CERP; construction of the STAs began in 1995. STAs are the most significant component of the 1994-2007 Everglades Construction Project at a cost of about $700 million (see also Box 2-2), and they play an integral part in fulfilling CERP water quality goals. To date, the six STAs cover over 41,000 acres of the 550,000-acre EAA and accept average annual inflows of nearly 1.2 million acre-feet (Table 5-2). STAs are constructed wetlands (see Figure 5-8), designed both to store water temporarily and to remove phosphorus through a combination of sedimentation and biological uptake. The original design goal for the STAs (circa 1988) was an average annual effluent concentration for phosphorus from the EAA of less than or equal to 50 ppb TP. Overall performance has been much better, with all but STA 5 achieving effluent concentrations typically less than 25 ppb. For instance, during water year 2005, the total volume of inflow was about 1,483,000 acre-feet, with a flow-weighted average inflow TP concentration of about 147 ppb (range for all STAs: 78-247 ppb); the flow-weighted mean outflow TP concentration was only 41 ppb (range for all STAs: 13-98 5 Further information on the Everglades Construction Project can be found online at http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/erd/ecp/3_ecp.html.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 FIGURE 5-7 Location of STAs. SOURCE: Pietro et al. (2006). ppb; Pietro et al., 2006). The reason for the reduced performance of STA 5 (Table 5-2) is primarily overloading (greater than the design inflow) from additional flows from the C-139 basin to the west. All STAs suffered somewhat from overloading during the wet years of 2003-2004. Following the original design of the STAs (completed in 1997), the goal for TP concentrations in waters flowing within the Everglades Protection Area was reduced to 10 ppb as an outcome of Florida’s year 2000 amendments to the 1994 Everglades Forever Act (see also Chapter 2). Although the phosphorus-reduction performance of the STAs has been impressive, further research is under way to develop means for even further phosphorus reduc-
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 TABLE 5-2 STAs in the EAA and Total Phosphorus Removal Performance STA Surface Area (acres) Average Annual Inflow (acre-feet/ year) Years Monitored Estimated P load (MT/year) Estimated P Removal (MT/year) Effluent P Range (ppb) 1Ea 5,350 125,000 n/a 29 23 n/a 1W 6,670 143,000 1995-2005 38 31 20-100b 2 6.430 175,000 2002-2005 34 25 15-20 3/4 16,480 600,000 2004-2005 87 53 13-18 5 4,118 78,000 2001-2005 25 21 80-140 6 2,280 54,000 1998-2005 13 10 10-30 Totals 41,328 1,175,000 226 163 Average: 41c NOTE: P = phosphorus; MT = metric ton; n/a = not available; load = flow × concentration. aLocated just outside the EAA, to the northeast of WCA 1. bSeverely impacted by 2004 hurricanes. cFlow-weighted for all areas. SOURCE: Goforth (2005). FIGURE 5-8 Constructed wetlands in what is now STA 1W, built as part of the Everglades Construction Project. SOURCE: http://www.sfwmd.gov/org/oee/vcd/photos/xenr.html.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 tion for the enormous volumes of water that might eventually be discharged to the Everglades ecosystem. In addition to studies of the most effective vegetative and hydraulic conditions for phosphorus removal, the STAs in the southern EAA will be expanded by over 19,000 acres during 2006, with good chances for further load reductions to the Everglades ecosystem. Regarding their long-term sustainability, NRC (2005) noted that: The long-term effectiveness of STAs (over many decades) in providing a high degree of phosphorus removal remains to be tested. Clearly, the longevity of a treatment facility depends on its size relative to the loadings it must assimilate. In theory, STAs can be constructed to provide adequate capacity for many decades of inputs if sufficient acreage is provided. At some point, however, water quality and the composition of the plant communities (which is related to chemical water quality) within STAs themselves will become issues of concern. The current management assumption is that effluent concentration goals will be met and phosphorus will remain sequestered in the peat as long as the STAs are operated within their design criteria (regarding phosphorus and hydraulic loading rates) and as long as they do not suffer severe physical disruption from hurricanes. Both overloading and damaging hurricanes occurred in the 2002-2004 period, however, so performance uncertainty will always exist. Ongoing research activities within the SFWMD include development of accurate water and nutrient budgets, development of two-dimensional hydrodynamic models, vegetation management, and understanding how an STA should best be managed to recover from major disruptions (Burns and McDonnell, 2003). Sustaining efficient phosphorus removal over the long term may require the removal of the accumulated biomass or sediment to restore the phosphorus retention capacity. The committee commends the SFWMD for its research accomplishments to date and endorses continued research as to the long-term sustainability of the STAs. Another concern is that the effectiveness of the STAs in removing other contaminants of concern (e.g., pesticides) has not been demonstrated (Pietro et al., 2006). The annual pesticide usage in South Florida has been estimated to be about 14,000 metric tons per year, with 38 percent as insecticides, 20 percent as herbicides, 24 percent as fumigants, and 19 percent as fungicides and nematicides (Miles and Pfeuffer, 1997). The SFWMD has conducted a pesticide-monitoring program since 1984, with sampling at multiple locations and at various frequencies over its 1,400-mile system of canals (Pfeuffer and Rand, 2004). Atrazine and ametryn were the most commonly detected herbicides in surface-water samples; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and dichlorodiphenyldichloro-
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 ethane (DDD) were the most frequently detected insecticides in the sediment samples (Pfeuffer and Rand, 2004). The ecotoxicological significance of the presence of these pesticides and other organic contaminants (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs]) in surface water and sediment remains unclear, but the potential for endocrine disruption in alligators, large-mouth bass, and other aquatic species is being investigated.6 The committee endorses research as to the effectiveness of STAs with regard to removal of constituents other than just phosphorus. Best Management Practices Nonstructural, operational means for enhancing the water quality of surface runoff include reduction of fertilizer use, water management, sediment controls, and pasture management. Phosphorus control is mandatory in the C-139 and EAA basins, but voluntary in other basins tributary to the Everglades ecosystem, including urban areas. The impacts of BMPs are measured against a base period of 1978-1988, adjusted to account for variability due to rainfall. The first compliance year was water year 1996, which reflects the year the BMPs were fully implemented, after starting the program in 1992. The compliance goal was a 25 percent phosphorus load reduction, although monitored performance since 1996 has been much better, with some years achieving over 50 percent phosphorus load reduction (Figure 2-11). Success has been greater in the EAA itself, which is dominated by large corporate farms, than in the C-139 basin to the west, where there is a large collection of small farms. PROTECTING LAND FOR THE RESTORATION Land acquisition and other forms of land protection within the South Florida ecosystem are crucial to the restoration’s success because a sufficient land base is required to increase water quantity, improve water quality, and enhance ecological functioning. There are two perspectives on the land-related issues for the restoration based on geographic area. The first, more narrowly defined area includes those lands where specific sites are needed for the construction of CERP or non-CERP projects. The second, more broadly defined area consists of any land within the South Florida 6 See http://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/eco_risk/.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 ecosystem that could help meet the broad restoration goals (see Chapter 2). CERP land acquisitions have thus far appropriately emphasized obtaining particular sites within the project area, because if these sites are not acquired the project will lose restoration options. Protection of wetland areas in the larger watershed is also important, however, because such areas supply water needed to restore sheet flow through the WCAs to Everglades National Park. Precipitation on the wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee and north of the park has historically driven this sheet flow; water overflowed the shores of the lake and directly contributed to sheet flow in the Everglades ecosystem only during periods of exceptional rainfall (Leach et al., 1971). Land in the EAA could play an important role in increasing the water storage capacity of the Everglades ecosystem. With rapidly increasing human population and its attendant development pressures and rising property values (see Reynolds, 2006), it is now more urgent than ever to acquire the land needed for restoration. Reallocating funds from activities such as construction to land acquisition sooner, rather than later, may delay project construction and associated project benefits but would reduce overall program costs if, as projected, land prices rise faster than construction costs. More important, land acquisition can safeguard areas that may otherwise be irreversibly converted to development (DOI and USACE, 2005; NRC, 2005). By 2005, the land acquisition program had obtained 207,000 acres of land for CERP projects, accounting for 51 percent of approximately 406,000 acres that planners anticipated for the CERP (DOI and USACE, 2005).7 So far, approximately $1.09 billion has been spent on land acquisition, including $800 million from the state of Florida (73 percent), $259 million from the federal government (24 percent), and $32 million from local governments (3 percent). The remaining approximately 199,000 acres of land required for the CERP will cost at least $1.34 billion (Land Acquisition Task Team, 2005). The committee commends the current state and federal land acquisition programs and reiterates the urgency of continued acquisitions. The committee endorses accelerated land acquisitions within the limited project area of the CERP, but it is also important to protect currently undeveloped parts of the South Florida ecosystem that could help achieve the broad restoration goals. Once such land is developed, it is very hard physically, economically, and politically to return it to a condition that would support restoration objectives. 7 Land acquisition maps current as of March 28, 2006, are available online at http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/land_acquisition/re_ projects.cfm#md.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Other viable options besides acquisition exist for protecting lands in support of the restoration goals, including zoning, purchase of easements, and other regulations. For example, Miami-Dade County defined the Urban Development Boundary, which limited westward expansion of the urbanized area. Despite the clear designation, however, denial of building permits west of the boundary in the supposedly protected area has generated substantial public controversy (Schwartz and Morgan, 2006). Some interest groups advocate denial of permits to fill wetlands as a tool to protect land within the South Florida ecosystem. For example, the National Parks Conservation Association and Tropical Audubon Society announced on January 31, 2006, that they had filed a lawsuit in federal court against the USACE for issuing a wetland-fill permit to a developer in Miami-Dade County. If the USACE ceased issuance of wetland-fill permits within critical areas of the South Florida ecosystem, certainly more land will be protected, but just as certainly more conflict between restoration and other land uses will arise. These examples illustrate that restoration as envisioned in the CERP will require more than construction of projects and will require difficult societal choices concerning land use. These examples also signal the strength of the political and economic pressures to convert existing agricultural and other lands to industrial, commercial, and residential uses. In the absence of policies and regulations that can prevent, or at least limit, such conversions, substantial expansion of the urbanized area at the expense of wetlands is inevitable. Conversions will increase the area of impervious surfaces, the amounts of toxicants that must be controlled, and the area requiring flood protection. Such conversions would also reduce the water storage capacity of the system, render it more difficult to achieve water quality standards, and limit opportunities to restore sheet flows over larger areas. The committee recommends that the state closely monitor and regularly report land conversion patterns within the South Florida ecosystem. The committee sought such information but found it difficult to locate in any useful compilations. Given their importance to the restoration potential of the CERP, such data should be readily available to project managers and stakeholders. ASSESSMENT OF PROGRESS IN RESTORING THE NATURAL SYSTEM Ecosystem restoration is a complex undertaking (e.g., NRC, 1992, 1996, 2001b). The attempt to restore an ecosystem as large and complex as the South Florida ecosystem is an unprecedented challenge. What has been achieved and what are the prospects for success?
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 It is too early to evaluate how the ecosystem is responding, because no CERP projects have been constructed. It is also too soon to fully assess the effects of non-CERP activities that are already under way, because the ecosystem is only beginning to respond to changes that these non-CERP projects are designed to effect. Nonetheless, progress is being made, albeit slowly, on Mod Waters. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project has shown demonstrable improvement and benefits to the natural system of the restored portions of the formerly channelized river. Substantial, but not complete, success in reducing concentrations of phosphorus is also being achieved by several STAs. Roughly half of the land needed for CERP project construction has been acquired. These achievements are important and impressive, but they represent only initial steps toward what is needed for the restoration of the natural system that is the primary focus of the Everglades restoration efforts. Although the restoration process is still in its early stages, a few things are clear. First, even well-focused, intensive efforts to solve clearly defined ecosystem problems (e.g., excess phosphorus, invasive exotic species) have been only partly successful, although the success they have achieved should be encouraging to those who are willing to commit the resources to an overall restoration of the ecosystem. Second, continued efforts at the scale of CERP project components will be needed to achieve ecosystem restoration that will be widely recognized as successful. Those efforts will include deconstruction of many water-control facilities, the development of enormous amounts of water storage, continued efforts to control nutrient loading, and strategic land acquisition. Third, ASR pilot projects and the Decomp Physical Model demonstrate that active adaptive management can be employed to provide knowledge to resolve critical uncertainties at the scale of the CERP. The same active adaptive management principles can help facilitate the implementation of other major restoration components. The realization of the CERP will require a commitment of adequate funding and often difficult public policy choices. Mod Waters and Decomp exemplify the complex interaction of technical, legal, and political controversies encountered during Everglades restoration. Although both projects have shown some recent progress in overcoming barriers through collaborative engagement with stakeholders and the perseverance and dedication of agency personnel, the likelihood of sustaining this level of commitment to advance restoration of the Everglades remains unclear.
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Ecosystem restoration is a complex undertaking. The CERP is one of the most ambitious, detailed, and comprehensive blueprints ever planned for managing an integrated built and natural environment. The attempt to restore an ecosystem as large and complex as the Everglades is an unprecedented challenge. This chapter discusses what has been achieved and what the prospects are for success. The CERP has shifted from a planning phase to the early stages of implementation. The past few years have seen the production of important planning documents such as the adaptive management strategy, significant land acquisition in support of the restoration, progress on foundation projects, and the first beginnings of the CERP construction. But implementation of the CERP is off to a rocky, uneven start. Some projects are progressing better or faster than planned, such as construction of some Acceler8 projects and the performance of STAs in reducing phosphorus, whereas others, such as the pilot projects, are slower. The project planning, authorization, and funding process is creating significant delays in implementation, and the greatest delays are affecting projects that would provide benefits to the WCAs and Everglades National Park—those areas that most represent the Everglades ecosystem in the public’s eye. It is too early to evaluate the response of the ecosystem to the current restoration program, because no CERP projects have been constructed. As discussed in Chapter 3, construction completion for the first CERP components will not be achieved until at least 2007. It is also too soon to fully assess the effects of non-CERP activities that are already under way, because the ecosystem is only beginning to respond to changes that these projects are designed to effect. However, several non-CERP activities are positive harbingers of future CERP programs. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project has shown demonstrable improvements and benefits to the natural system. Improvements in the restored portions of the formerly channelized river include increases in river dissolved oxygen, increased density of wading birds, and colonization of the filled canal with wetland vegetation. Among several lessons learned from this project is that natural system restoration can be performed while continuing to maintain the flood-control function of the original channelization project. Stormwater treatment areas and best management practices, implemented as part of non-CERP initiatives started in the 1990s, have proven remarkably effective at reducing phosphorus levels found in agricultural
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 runoff. While falling short of the goal of 10 ppb TP in the ambient waters, flow-weighted effluent concentrations from the STAs averaging 41 ppb are much reduced from influent concentrations that average 147 ppb. Because water quality is such a critical aspect of ecosystem restoration, the committee strongly encourages ongoing research to evaluate the need for additional acreage of STAs, to enhance removal of phosphorus and other constituents within these treatment wetlands, and to investigate their long-term sustainability. The Mod Waters and C-111 projects have suffered long delays but are now moving forward, although Mod Waters should be completed without further delay. The Mod Waters and C-111 projects are non-CERP foundation projects that are necessary prerequisites to CERP. Mod Waters represents a first major step toward restoration of the WCAs and Everglades National Park and a valuable opportunity to learn about the response of the natural system to restoration of sheet flow. Since Mod Waters is an assumed precursor for Decomp, further delays in the project’s completion may ultimately delay the funding appropriations for Decomp, and limitations in its scope, such as in the magnitude of removal of levees, may compromise the ultimate effectiveness of Decomp and restoration of flow to Northeast Shark River Slough. The combination of pilot studies, a regional feasibility study, and contingency planning is a sound adaptive management approach to an unproven technology such as ASR. Three pilot projects are under way to assess the technical feasibility of this critical water storage component of CERP. Although no findings have emerged to date regarding ASR that necessitate a rethinking of the ASR storage component, contingency planning is essential in the case that elements of ASR or the overall scope (330 wells) should prove infeasible. Production of natural system restoration benefits within the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park are lagging behind production of natural system restoration benefits in other portions of the South Florida ecosystem. The eight Acceler8 projects should provide ecological benefits to the Lake Okeechobee region, the northern estuaries, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and Biscayne Bay. The primary expected restoration benefits to the WCAs and Everglades National Park come from one project—the WCA 3A/B Seepage Management—although the Acceler8 program may also provide momentum to the remaining restoration projects by hastening early construction efforts. Because determinations to allocate the water captured by the Acceler8 storage
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Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 projects have not yet been finalized, future projections of benefits to the South Florida ecosystem remain unclear. The Decomp project has been significantly delayed, although recent plans to implement an active adaptive management approach may move the project forward. Progress in implementing Decomp has been slowed by conflicts among stakeholders and inherent constraints in project planning in the face of scientific uncertainties. The committee is also concerned that project planning procedures may favor project alternatives that are limited in scope over project designs with less certain outcomes that have the potential to offer greater restoration benefits. Both the Decomp Physical Model and the LILA experiments should help resolve some of the uncertainties that are constraining the project planning process. These are impressive adaptive management activities that should improve the likelihood of restoration success. Progress could be enhanced further if these experiments pave the way for additional experiments, some at even larger scales, that could be incorporated into an incremental approach to restoration. The active land acquisition efforts should be continued, accompanied by monitoring and regular reporting on land conversion patterns in the South Florida ecosystem. Land management for a successful CERP depends on purchasing particular sites within the project area and protecting more general areas within the South Florida ecosystem that could help meet the broad restoration goals. The committee commends the state of Florida for its aggressive and effective financial support for acquiring important parcels. Rapidly rising land costs imply that land within the project area should be acquired as soon as possible. Reallocation of funds from some construction projects into the land acquisition program may be warranted if land costs rise faster than construction costs. Understanding the land-use and land-cover changes that affect downstream hydrologic and ecological processes in the Everglades depends on monitoring of land conversions. The committee sought data on wetland development and other land-use conversions and found them difficult to locate in any synthesized form. Given the importance of wetland development to the restoration potential of the CERP, the state should closely monitor and regularly report land conversion patterns within the South Florida ecosystem to stakeholders.
Representative terms from entire chapter: