restoration. Getting the water right also has important social dimensions (e.g., water supply, flood control) that may or may not work in concert with improving environmental conditions.
In addition to water quantity, water quality is also a continuing issue in Everglades restoration. Excess phosphorus is the contaminant of greatest concern, with continuing inputs from some agricultural areas in the Everglades watershed. Although these contributions of phosphorus are less than they would have been without the tremendous effort on the part of the state of Florida to create vast stormwater treatment areas (STAs), phosphorus concentrations in the waters of the South Florida ecosystem remain at unhealthy levels for its native plant communities. High phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee also limit the volume of water that can be moved south into the Everglades ecosystem, and phosphorus-laden sediments are likely to be a continuing source of contamination for several decades.
Successful restoration of the Everglades depends upon consideration of the many interconnected parts of this extensive and integrated watershed. If water quantity or quality is altered in the Kissimmee River, the effects of the change are transmitted to Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and their estuaries on the east and west coasts, and to the remnant Everglades ecosystem, including Everglades National Park far to the south. Similarly, decisions about the planning and funding of individual projects in the CERP affect not only the individual projects but also distant components of the system. Given current fiscal constraints, funds spent in one location may imply less funding for other locations. These circumstances necessitate clear restoration priorities and a system-wide vision for restoration. Continuation of the current piecemeal approach to planning, authorizing, and funding CERP projects will make successful restoration unlikely.
The creation of the CERP plan in the late 1990s was a response to a broad recognition among the public, interest groups, governmental managers, and state and national legislators that the Everglades ecosystem was in serious decline. Today, as described in Chapter 2, the decline continues, so that failure to press forward with restoration results in additional deterioration to the natural system. To do nothing is, in fact, to do harm. The nation risks losing some populations of iconic wildlife associated with the Everglades. Populations of some bird species, including the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and the snail kite, are at risk. Wading birds have redistributed themselves to new locations outside their former ranges that included Everglades National Park, one of the jewels of the national park