Summary

The Florida Everglades, a large and diverse aquatic ecosystem, has been dramatically altered over the past century by an extensive water control infrastructure, designed to increase regional economic productivity through improved flood control, urban water supply, and agricultural production. The remnants of the original Everglades now compete for vital water with urban and agricultural interests and are impaired by contaminated runoff from these two activities. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), a joint effort led by the state and the federal government launched in 2000, seeks to reverse the general decline of the ecosystem. This multi-billion dollar project was envisioned as a 30-year effort to achieve ecological restoration by restoring the hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that simultaneously serves the needs of the natural and the human systems of South Florida (Figure S-1).

The National Research Council (NRC) established the Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP) in 2004 in response to a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), with support from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), based on Congress’s mandate in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000). The committee is charged to submit biennial reports that review the CERP’s progress in restoring the natural system (see Box S-1). This is the committee’s third report in a series of biennial evaluations.

RESTORATION PROGRESS

The CERP, led by the USACE and the SFWMD, consists primarily of projects to increase storage capacity (e.g., conventional surface-water reservoirs, aquifer storage and recovery, in-ground reservoirs), improve water quality (e.g., stormwater treatment areas [STAs]), reduce loss of water from the system (e.g.,



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Summary The Florida Everglades, a large and diverse aquatic ecosystem, has been dramatically altered over the past century by an extensive water control infra- structure, designed to increase regional economic productivity through improved flood control, urban water supply, and agricultural production. The remnants of the original Everglades now compete for vital water with urban and agricultural interests and are impaired by contaminated runoff from these two activities. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), a joint effort led by the state and the federal government launched in 2000, seeks to reverse the general decline of the ecosystem. This multi-billion dollar project was envisioned as a 30-year effort to achieve ecological restoration by restoring the hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that simultaneously serves the needs of the natural and the human systems of South Florida (Figure S-1). The National Research Council (NRC) established the Committee on Inde- pendent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP) in 2004 in response to a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), with support from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), based on Congress’s mandate in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000). The committee is charged to submit biennial reports that review the CERP’s progress in restoring the natural system (see Box S-1). This is the committee’s third report in a series of biennial evaluations. RESTORATION PROGRESS The CERP, led by the USACE and the SFWMD, consists primarily of proj- ects to increase storage capacity (e.g., conventional surface-water reservoirs, aquifer storage and recovery, in-ground reservoirs), improve water quality (e.g., stormwater treatment areas [STAs]), reduce loss of water from the system (e.g., 3

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4 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades FIGURE S-1 The South Florida ecosystem, which shares the same boundaries as the South Florida Figure S-1.eps Water Management District. © International Mapping Associates bitmap

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Summary 5 BOX S-1 Statement of Task This congressionally mandated activity will review the progress toward achieving the restoration goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The committee meets approximately four times annually to receive briefings on the current status of the CERP and on scientific issues involved in implementing the restoration plan, and it publishes biennial reports providing: 1. assessment of progress in restoring the natural system, which is defined by sec- tion 601(a) of WRDA 2000 as all the land and water managed by the federal government and state within the South Florida ecosystem; 2. discussion of significant accomplishments of the restoration; 3. discussion and evaluation of specific scientific and engineering issues that may impact progress in achieving the natural system restoration goals of the Plan; and 4. independent review of monitoring and assessment protocols to be used for evaluation of CERP progress (e.g., CERP performance measures, annual assessment reports, assessment strategies). seepage management, water reuse, conservation), and reestablish pre-drainage hydrologic patterns wherever possible (e.g., removing barriers to sheet flow, rainfall-driven water management). The CERP builds upon other activities of the state and the federal government aimed at restoration (hereafter, non-CERP activities), many of which are essential to the success of the CERP in achieving its restoration goals. Natural system restoration progress from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) remains slow. This committee reaffirms its predeces- sor’s conclusions (NRC, 2008) that continued declines of some aspects of the ecosystem coupled with environmental and societal changes make acceler- ated progress in Everglades restoration even more important. A review of the changing context for the CERP over the past decade reveals positive as well as negative trends. The decade brought 2 major droughts and 12 tropical storms, creating extensive challenges for water managers. Some species, particularly wading birds, Cape Sable seaside sparrows, and panthers appear to be increasing or stable, while others, such as the snail kite, have declined. Tree island habi- tats continue to decline. Despite some impressive control efforts, especially for plants, invasive species continue to present major challenges, and the invasive exotic animals have few effective controls. Despite large investments in STAs and long-term water quality improvements from these efforts, water quality vio- lations suggest that more work is needed. Meanwhile, the economic downturn has led to shortfalls in revenue for the SFWMD, although the downturn has also

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6 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades resulted in lower costs of construction for some key projects. Increased water conservation efforts as well as slower population growth have kept urban water demand substantially lower than was projected when the CERP was designed. During the past two years the restoration program has made tangible prog- ress, and four CERP projects are now under construction. Continued federal commitment is especially important at this time. The Everglades restoration program has completed the arduous federal project planning and authorization processes for three projects and and is now moving forward with construction of the Picayune Strand project with federal funding. Additionally, despite budget challenges, the state of Florida continues to expedite the construction of three projects (C-111 Spreader Canal, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, and Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area). After years of delay, it is critically important to maintain this momentum to minimize further degradation of the system dur- ing CERP implementation. Some restoration benefits can be attributed to partial restoration of Pica- yune Strand; however, the completion of additional ongoing and planned proj- ects will be required to see substantial restoration benefits for the Everglades ecosystem. The SFWMD reports that plugging one canal in Picayune Strand raised water tables on approximately 13,000 acres of wetland habitat, repre- senting partial hydrologic restoration on approximately one-fourth of the project area. Construction is also under way on the C-111 Spreader Canal and the Bis- cayne Bay Coastal Wetlands projects, but no significant restoration benefits have yet resulted from these efforts. Each of these projects is being implemented in phases to deliver early restoration benefits when possible with available funding. Pilot projects and field-scale experiments are addressing some impor- tant design uncertainties but could be better linked to decision making and implementation. In addition to the originally conceived CERP pilot projects, CERP planners have recently initiated two field-scale experiments (the C-111 Spreader Canal design test and the Decomp Physical Model). These projects are intended to reduce design uncertainties that were points of contention among stakeholders, which limited progress on project planning. The C-111 design test will address important hydrologic uncertainties; additional pilot components are needed to address the potential impacts of elevated nutrients on receiving wetlands. The Decomp Physical Model will provide information on hydraulic, hydrologic, and short-term ecological differences between canal backfilling options and will improve understanding of the hydrological response of WCA- 3B to re-watering, but the experiment will likely require additional replication to settle the current debate over the efficacy of different canal treatments. CERP scientists and planners should consider other means of synthesizing and com- municating results beyond traditional hypothesis tests to facilitate stakeholder discussions and decision making under uncertainty.

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Summary 7 Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) pilot studies have contributed valuable hydrogeologic and geochemical information, but the administrative delays, site limitations, funding constraints, and arsenic leaching encountered are indicative of serious challenges facing large-scale use of ASR. The final ASR pilot report should address the impacts of these factors on use of ASR at the unprecedented scale envisioned for the CERP and should compare the long-term costs and benefits of ASR against other less energy-intensive storage alternatives. Initiation of construction of a 1-mile bridge on the Tamiami Trail is an important, albeit partial, step forward. NRC (2008) called the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) Project, of which the bridge is one component, “one of the most discouraging stories in Everglades resto- ration” and stated that if the downsized 1-mile bridge could not be built, the outlook for the CERP was dismal. With leadership from the administration and Congress, the federal government was able to overcome numerous obstacles to ultimately break ground on the project in December 2009. Although the benefits of the 1-mile bridge represent only a fraction of those envisioned in earlier Mod Waters plans, planning is under way to consider additional bridging that could take advantage of a downturn in construction costs. The River of Grass initiative could create options for additional water stor- age and water quality treatment to help meet CERP objectives. The SFWMD governing board recently approved the purchase of nearly 27,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corporation lands—substantially less than previously announced— near areas with historically high phosphorus loads. These lands could help the SFWMD come into compliance with current water quality requirements, yet this represents only a small step toward the goals of the River of Grass initia- tive. Prior to this announcement, the SFWMD had facilitated an engaging and inclusive River of Grass planning process and had created an impressive set of data visualization tools to support the effort. As of mid-2010, the specific benefits that will accrue to the CERP from the River of Grass initiative cannot be deter- mined, because the planning and design process has not been completed and the availability of funding to support future land purchases is unknown. Also, it remains unclear how successfully other political and economic constraints can or will be addressed for the remaining “option” lands (e.g., reality of land swaps, opportunity costs, stakeholder concerns) and how the initiative will be coordinated with the CERP. Given the slower than anticipated pace of implementation and unreliable funding schedule, projects should be scheduled with the aim of achieving sub- stantial restoration benefits as soon as possible. The latest Integrated Delivery Schedule appears consistent with this goal and should generate substantial res- toration benefits by 2020. Although many projects have been delayed, aggres- sive schedules have been maintained for the WCA 3 Decompartmentalization

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8 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades (Decomp) project, seepage management, and critical foundation projects (as of the March 2010 published schedule). These projects offer significant restoration benefits to the remnant Everglades ecosystem, but the benefits cannot be fully realized without the provision of additional water, which will require substantial new storage and associated water quality treatment. Maintaining political and public support for Everglades restoration will be critical to future CERP progress. Multiple decades of sustained commitment and a high level of public funding will be needed to complete the CERP. Maintain- ing this commitment will be a continuing challenge and will require near-term demonstration of significant public and environmental benefits as evidenced through the CERP’s monitoring and assessment program. PROGRESS IN SCIENCE SUPPORT FOR DECISION MAKING Research efforts are providing a sound basis for critical CERP decision making. Research during the past few years has led to notable advances in our understanding of climate trends in South Florida and the sensitivity of the regional water management system to changes in climate and sea level. Research has also improved understanding of the pre-drainage Everglades and has clarified the key parameters governing the formation and maintenance of landscape features in the ridge and slough ecosystem. Also under way are two major science synthesis efforts directed toward answering key questions relevant to restoration management. Progress continues on improving the Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP) and on building a baseline of monitoring data by which restoration progress will be judged. MAP 2009, an update to the MAP report released in 2004, largely addressed the prior NRC committee’s concerns about monitoring and assessment (NRC, 2008), although a full evaluation of the MAP cannot take place until additional on-the-ground restoration progress has taken place. The Science Coordination Group, working with RECOVER scientists, developed a stop-light indicator system that substantially improves the communication of ecosystem status to the public. The CERP has laid the foundations for adaptive management of Everglades restoration and should now put theory into practice. To do so will require stronger institutional mechanisms for obtaining scientific feedback to planning, management, and implementation decisions. Project planning should explicitly provide for adaptive management in the context of both project-specific and sys- temwide performance monitoring and evaluation. To ensure stronger coupling of engineering design and operations with ecosystem assessment, project moni- toring should be well integrated with systemwide monitoring and assessment. The effectiveness of the linkages between science and decision making

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Summary 9 should be examined by CERP leadership. Linking science with policy and man- agement decisions is critically important to achieving restoration goals, but the effectiveness of current mechanisms in providing such linkage has been ques- tioned by some in the restoration community. The committee encourages CERP leadership to examine this issue and to consider mechanisms to improve the communication of relevant scientific findings to decision makers. The committee also recommends greater clarity and transparency in the integration of science into CERP policy and management decisions. Constructive stakeholder engagement and interagency coordination are key elements of CERP adaptive management. To improve stakeholder engagement, the USACE and SFWMD should formally evaluate and strengthen the CERP’s efforts at outreach and public engagement, and implement a process to monitor the efforts’ effectiveness and ensure iterative improvement. Little recent progress has been made in developing integrated hydrologic, ecological, and biogeochemical models to inform restoration decision making and to provide input for adaptive management. Hydrologic modeling has been the primary focus of CERP model development efforts, and substantial progress has been made on the Natural System Regional Simulation Model (NSRSM) and in subregional applications of the South Florida Regional Simulation Model (RSM). In contrast, efforts to develop ecological models, linked ecological- hydrologic models, and biogeochemical or sediment transport models are nota- bly minimal. As a result, project planning and decision making proceeds without complete information as to the ecological and water quality impacts at both a project and regional scale. Although the concept of economic valuation of ecosystem services is a promising and important one, the committee does not see near-term benefits to its use in the CERP. Developing accurate and defensible estimates of the economic values of ecosystem services in the Everglades will require careful, deliberate, original research and analysis that integrates assessments of ecosys- tem functions, services, and individual value estimates. Prerequisites for such an analysis are integrated hydrologic, ecological, and biogeochemical models that can predict the ecosystem services that will likely result from alternative restoration activities; even with such models, the analysis would require a large effort. For this reason, economic valuation of ecosystem services is unlikely to assist near-term decision making. Everglades restoration planners should be alert to specific opportunities when the economic valuation of ecosystem services has the potential to be useful, and especially, to improve the methods for economic valuation of ecosystem services and adapt them to the Everglades.

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10 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades RESTORATION CHALLENGES Everglades restoration is premised on “getting the water right” by re-estab- lishing the hydrologic regime and biological characteristics that defined undis- turbed South Florida ecosystems, including a large extent of interconnected wetlands, extremely low concentrations of nutrients in freshwater wetlands, sheet flow, healthy and productive estuaries, resilient plant communities, and abundant and viable populations of native wildlife. In practice, “getting the water right” means re-engineering and re-operating the Central and South Florida (C&SF) Project to improve the quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of freshwater flows in the South Florida ecosystem, reducing pollution sources in the basin, and treating polluted surface waters as necessary. Challenges in Restoring Water Timing, Flow, and Distribution The reduced extent, altered topography, and reduced storage of the modern Everglades make it infeasible to achieve the same degree of restoration through- out the remnant system. Hydrologic conditions may even worsen in some areas in order to achieve desired outcomes in others. In particular, northern Water Conservation Areas (WCA)-3A and -3B (Figure S-1) have experienced substantial drying, peat loss, and subsidence, making it difficult to maintain suitable water flow, levels, and hydroperiods there. Hydrologic interdependencies of regions within the Everglades and the associated ecological tradeoffs that result from restoration and water manage- ment decisions need to be rigorously analyzed from a whole-system perspective and clearly communicated to decision makers and stakeholders. The CERP lacks a formal approach for evaluating in a transparent way the systemwide benefits of alternative restoration plans or policies, although RECOVER scientists have made good use of hydrologic models and performance measures to evaluate the design and staging of the CERP. RECOVER, in collaboration with water managers and decision makers, should develop evaluation methods to quantify and integrate across the tradeoffs required to sustain Everglades’ species and features to assess the systemwide restoration benefits. Any consideration of the ecological risks associated with water management should consider the timescales over which adverse ecological outcomes might be reversible, if they are at all. Increasing water storage (and associated water quality treatment) is a major near-term priority. Over the next 5-10 years, CERP and pre-CERP projects will improve the conveyance and distribution of water in southern WCA-3A and Everglades National Park. But until additional water of sufficient quality becomes available, the restoration benefits will be modest and could result in shorter hydroperiods and more severe dry-down events in northern WCA-2A and

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Summary 11 northern WCA-3A. The Integrated Delivery Schedule does not currently have a plan for water storage to support planned projects in the remnant Everglades ecosystem, aside from the stalled Everglades Agricultural Area A-1 Reservoir, and the benefits of the A-1 Reservoir to the remnant Everglades remain unclear. WCA-3 is a growing focus of public controversy and management concern because of its location and the way the entire system is operated to manage water distribution and quality. WCA-3A supports extensive and relatively intact Everglades landscapes including ridge and slough patterns and tree islands, and it provides critical habitat for endangered species, such as the snail kite and wood stork. It is the homeland of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and supports the tribe members’ traditional and contemporary lifestyles. Over the past decade, however, there have been drastic declines in snail kite numbers and nesting success in WCA-3A, as well as continued slow declines in tree island size and number. The imminent loss of the snail kite from WCA-3A may precipitate a crisis in water management. To some degree, this situation has been exacerbated by the current operation of the compartmentalized Everglades that alters flows across the Tamiami Trail to restore Cape Sable seaside sparrows and ecosystem functioning in Everglades National Park. In light of the rapidly deteriorating conditions in WCA-3A, improvements in operations could lead to important near-term restoration progress. The com- mittee commends the cooperative, multi-objective approach to improve near- term operations that is reflected in the Everglades Restoration Transition Plan and encourages continuation of this approach, supported by rigorous scientific analysis and decision tools, beyond the current November 2010 end point. This process has the potential to align water management in the water conservation areas with a schedule that responds more flexibly to real-time conditions. Improved species models and multi-objective decision analysis tools are urgently needed to provide more rigorous scientific support for water man- agement decisions. Multi-objective decision tools can be used to help evaluate hydrologic effects and water-level management options on threatened species, ecosystem features such as tree islands, and critical ecosystem processes. Challenges in Restoring Water Quality Ten years after the CERP was launched, “getting the water right” is proving to be more difficult and expensive than originally anticipated. It has taken more than 60 years for the ecosystem to degrade to its current state, and it will likely take a similar timeframe or longer to restore. Due to legacy phosphorus storage in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, the lake itself, and the Everglades Agricultural Area, current phosphorus loadings into the system could persist for decades. Attaining water quality goals throughout the system is likely to be very costly

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12 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades and take several decades of continued commitment to a systemwide, integrated planning and design effort that simultaneously addresses source controls, stor- age, and treatment over a range of timescales. The current acreage of stormwater treatment areas (STAs), as managed, is not sufficient to treat existing water flows and phosphorus loads into the Everglades Protection Area. Although new construction of STAs is under way in Compart- ments B and C, these STAs are located far from where the recent Consent Decree violations have occurred. With increased volumes of water planned for the CERP, substantially more water quality treatment and/or additional load reductions will be needed if the new flows are to meet the water quality criteria. If these new CERP loads were addressed with STAs alone, an estimated 54,000 additional acres of STAs would be required, costing approximately $1.1 billion to construct, $27 million per year to operate and maintain, and approximately $1.1 billion to refurbish every 20 to 25 years (in 2010 dollars). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced phosphorus and nitrogen water quality standards for lakes, rivers, and canals introduce additional technical and financial challenges. The SFWMD should complete a comprehensive scientific, technical, and cost-effectiveness analysis as a basis for assessing potential short- and long- term restoration alternatives and for optimizing restoration outcomes given state and federal financial constraints. This analysis is needed to facilitate management decisions that focus on improving systemwide water quality, bring- ing the watershed into compliance with the Lake Okeechobee total maximum daily load (TMDL), and addressing recent violations of the Consent Decree. In addition to considering additional treatment and source control, this analysis should evaluate urban and agricultural water supply management approaches and accelerated sequencing for seepage management projects to determine whether changes could address water quality and water quantity concerns in a more efficient manner. Additional information on phosphorus mass balances, particularly within the Everglades Agricultural Area, is needed to support effective decision mak- ing. NRC (2008) recommended a systemwide accounting for phosphorus and other contaminants such as sulfur, nitrogen, calcium, and mercury, and this accounting remains a pressing need. There are notable gaps in the published phosphorus budgets between Lake Okeechobee and the inflows to the STAs and also in the contributions from atmospheric deposition for phosphorus and other elements. The lack of information synthesis of inputs and pathways of phosphorus and other contaminants in key areas, such as the Everglades Agri- cultural Area, hinders the development of targeted strategies to improve water quality management. A rigorous research, analysis, and modeling program is needed to develop improved best management practices and to examine the long-term sustain-

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Summary 13 ability and performance of STAs to meet the desired outflow water quality. To support the comprehensive scientific, technical, and cost-effectiveness analysis recommended above, additional research is needed in the following areas: • STA sustainability and performance. The SFWMD’s extensive STA soil and water quality monitoring program should be supported by a systematic research program that evaluates the long-term ability of STAs to sustain or improve upon their current level of functioning. Further research should examine the biogeo- chemistry, vegetation dynamics, and hydrology of the STAs, and should couple the resultant data with predictive models to improve performance and support management decisions. Useful improvements could also be realized through an external peer review of the STA monitoring, design criteria, and modeling and supportive research program. • Source control effectiveness. A rigorous research, monitoring, and mod- eling program focused on developing improved best management practices is needed to improve the efficiency of phosphorus source control efforts and to inform systemwide phosphorus management decisions. Long-term monitoring of the efficacy and costs of best management practice implementation across multiple sites will be required to evaluate source control practices across vari- able hydrologic, geomorphologic, and soil regimes present in the South Florida ecosystem and to validate and build confidence in predictive models. Given that restoration as originally envisioned in the CERP remains decades away and the ecosystem continues to decline, CERP agencies should conduct a rigorous scientific analysis of the short- and long-term tradeoffs between water quality and quantity for the Everglades ecosystem. The committee does not endorse such tradeoffs at this time, because scientific analyses to explain the repercussions of such decisions are lacking. However, the scientific analysis of potential tradeoffs is critical to inform future water management decisions, including the prioritization of projects. In particular, the analysis should address the following questions: • What are the short- and long-term consequences of providing too little water to the Everglades ecosystem but maintaining sufficient quality? • What are the short- and long-term consequences of providing water of lower quality to the Everglades ecosystem but maintaining sufficient flows? • Are the negative consequences reversible, and if so, within what timeframes? Effective water quality management would be best served by consideration of a multi-contaminant approach in the future. Water quality conditions in the

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14 Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades Everglades are affected not only by the input of contaminants, but also by the inputs of other elements that alter their behavior. For example, the bioavail- ability of mercury and its accumulation in fish and other wildlife appears to be controlled not only by inputs of mercury, but also by the supply of sulfate, phosphorus, and dissolved organic carbon. Likewise the transport and removal of phosphorus may be coupled with the supply of calcium in Lake Okeechobee, the STAs, and other portions of the Everglades. Additional research is also needed to clarify the linkages between water quality constituents to support sound multi- contaminant water management decisions. OVERALL EVALUATION OF PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES Although natural system restoration progress from the CERP remains slow, in the past two years, there have been noteworthy improvements in the pace of implementation and in the relationship between the federal and state partners. Federal CERP funding has increased, which has allowed continued progress as state funding has declined. The science program continues to provide a sound basis for decision making, but more transparent mechanisms of integrating sci- ence into decision making are needed. Continued public support and political commitment to long-term funding will be needed for the restoration plan to be completed. Despite progress in implementation, several important challenges related to water quality and water quantity have become clear over the past two years, highlighting the difficulty of simultaneously achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. Achieving water qual- ity goals for phosphorus in the South Florida ecosystem will be enormously costly and will take decades at least. Rigorous scientific analyses of potential conflicts among the hydrologic requirements of Everglades landscape features and species, and the tradeoffs between water quality and quantity, considering timescales of reversibility, are needed to inform future prioritization and funding decisions. Understanding and communicating these tradeoffs to stakeholders are critical aspects of CERP planning and implementation.