Abstract

This report is the third in a series of biennial independent scientific reviews of progress toward Everglades restoration that are mandated by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The reviews focus on restoration progress, scientific and engineering issues that could affect that progress, significant accomplishments of the restoration, and monitoring and assessment protocols. This report focuses on progress since the previous report, released in 2008, and issues relevant to these past two years.

Natural system restoration progress from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) remains slow, but in the past two years there have been noteworthy improvements in the pace of restoration and in the relationship between the federal and state partners. Federal CERP funding, which previously had not kept pace with state funding, has increased, which has allowed continued progress as state funding has declined. Four CERP projects, four pilot projects, and several non-CERP projects are under construction, notably the Tamiami Trail bridge. The science program continues to provide a sound basis for decision making, although clearer mechanisms for integrating science into restoration decision making are needed. This new momentum should be viewed only as a beginning; all early CERP projects are behind the original schedule, some of them by more than a decade. The restoration plan still has decades before completion, even without additional delays, and it will need political commitment to long-term funding.

Several important challenges related to water quality and water quantity have become clear during the past two years, highlighting the difficulty of simultaneously achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. For example, although wading bird numbers have increased recently throughout the Everglades and populations of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow have stabilized in Everglades National Park, the continued decline of snail kites to extremely low numbers and the continued stress to tree islands in Water Conservation Area 3A have led to growing public con-



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Abstract This report is the third in a series of biennial independent scientific reviews of progress toward Everglades restoration that are mandated by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The reviews focus on restoration prog- ress, scientific and engineering issues that could affect that progress, significant accomplishments of the restoration, and monitoring and assessment protocols. This report focuses on progress since the previous report, released in 2008, and issues relevant to these past two years. Natural system restoration progress from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) remains slow, but in the past two years there have been noteworthy improvements in the pace of restoration and in the relationship between the federal and state partners. Federal CERP funding, which previ- ously had not kept pace with state funding, has increased, which has allowed continued progress as state funding has declined. Four CERP projects, four pilot projects, and several non-CERP projects are under construction, notably the Tamiami Trail bridge. The science program continues to provide a sound basis for decision making, although clearer mechanisms for integrating science into restoration decision making are needed. This new momentum should be viewed only as a beginning; all early CERP projects are behind the original schedule, some of them by more than a decade. The restoration plan still has decades before completion, even without additional delays, and it will need political commitment to long-term funding. Several important challenges related to water quality and water quantity have become clear during the past two years, highlighting the difficulty of simultaneously achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. For example, although wading bird numbers have increased recently throughout the Everglades and populations of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow have stabilized in Everglades National Park, the continued decline of snail kites to extremely low numbers and the continued stress to tree islands in Water Conservation Area 3A have led to growing public con- 1

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2 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades troversy and concerns about management. Restoring hydrologic conditions while providing adequate storage and meeting water quality goals is also a difficult challenge. Achieving water quality goals throughout the South Florida ecosystem, especially for phosphorus content, will be enormously costly and will take decades to achieve. Some tradeoffs are inevitable in the CERP, given the reduced extent, altered topography, and reduced storage of the modern Everglades, and integrated hydrologic, ecological, and biogeochemical models and multi-objective decision analysis tools are needed to help evaluate design and management alternatives. Also, rigorous scientific analyses of the tradeoffs between water quality and quantity are needed to inform future prioritization and funding decisions. The analyses should include consideration of the time scales, spatial dependencies, and degree of reversibility of damage from continued deg- radation to various ecosystem components. Understanding and communicating these tradeoffs to decision makers and stakeholders are critical aspects of CERP planning and implementation. Despite these challenges, experience with some projects, such as the res- toration of the Kissimmee River, and recent progress on some critical CERP and non-CERP projects, lead to optimism that if restoration progress continues, substantial ecological benefits will accrue to the ecosystem, even if the effort does not achieve all the restoration goals originally envisioned by the CERP.