Federal funding will need to be significantly increased if the original CERP commitments are to be met on schedule. Inflation, project scope changes, and program coordination expenses have increased the original cost estimate of the CERP from $8.2 billion (in 1999 dollars) to $10.9 billion (in 2004 dollars). Further delays will add to this increase, particularly because of the escalating cost of real estate in South Florida. Despite these cost increases, current planned federal expenditures for FY 2005 to FY 2009 fall far short of even those envisioned in the original CERP implementation plan. Although the CERP is intended to be a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement between the federal and nonfederal (state and local) governments, federal expenditures from 2005 to 2009 are expected to be only 21 percent of the total. If federal funding for the CERP does not increase, major restoration projects directed toward the federal government’s primary interests (e.g., Everglades National Park) may not be completed in a timely way.
A significant challenge for the CERP is to implement the plan in a timely fashion while maintaining the federal and state partnership and the coalition of CERP stakeholders. Although there is consensus on the broad goals of the CERP there is disagreement among the agency partners and stakeholders on the timing and details of the myriad components of the program. One particular concern expressed by stakeholders is whether the water supply goals of the CERP are being unduly emphasized in the current CERP implementation plan at the expense of the natural system restoration goals. Of the many partnerships, the most important is that between the state of Florida and the USACE. The state’s Acceler8 initiative has been lauded for moving the CERP forward, but it has raised concerns about disproportionate funding and control by the state over the implementation of the program. In the end, success will require cooperation among a disparate group of organizations with differing missions as the broad goal of getting the water right is more precisely defined.