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1 Introduction The Florida Everglades, formerly a large and diverse aquatic ecosystem, has been dramatically altered during the past century by an extensive water control infrastructure designed to increase regional economic productivity through improved flood management, urban water supply, and agricultural production (Davis and Ogden, 1994). Shaped by the slow flow of water, its vast terrain of sawgrass plains, ridges, sloughs, and tree islands supported a high diversity of plant and animal habitats. This natural landscape also served as a sanctuary for Native Americans. However, large-scale changes to the landscape have diminished the natural resources, and by the mid- to late-20th century many of the areaâs defining natural characteristics had been lost. The remnants of the original Everglades (see Figure 1-1 and Box 1-1) now compete for vital water with urban and agricultural interests, and contaminated runoff from these two activities impairs the South Florida ecosystem. Recognition of past declines in environmental quality, combined with continuing threats to the natural character of the remaining Everglades, led to initiation of large-scale restoration planning in the 1990s and the launch of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000. This unprecedented project envisioned the expenditure of billions of dollars in a multidecadal effort to achieve ecological restoration by reestablishing the hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that simultaneously serves the needs of both the natural and the human systems of South Florida. Within the social, economic, and political latticework of the 21st century, restoration of the South Florida ecosystem is now under way and represents one of the most ambitious ecosystem renewal projects ever conceived. This report represents the eighth independent assessment of the CERPâs progress by the Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES AND EVERGLADES RESTORATION The National Academies has provided scientific and technical advice related to the Everglades restoration since 1999. The National Academiesâ Committee on the Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem (CROGEE), which operated from 1999 until 2004, was formed at the request of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (hereafter, simply the Task Force), an intergovernmental body established to facilitate coordination in the restoration effort, and the committee produced six reports (NRC, 2001, 2002a,b, 2003a,b, 2005). The National Academiesâ Panel to Review the Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative produced an additional report in 2003 (NRC, 2003c; see Appendix A). The Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000) mandated that the U.S. Department of the Army, the Department of the Interior, and the State of Florida, in consultation with the Task Force, establish an independent scientific review panel to evaluate progress toward achieving the natural system restoration goals of the CERP. The National Academiesâ CISRERP was therefore established in 2004 under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After publication of each of the first seven biennial reviews (NASEM, 2016, 2018; NRC, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012a, 2014; see Appendix A for the report summaries), some members rotated off the committee and some new members were added. The committee is charged to submit biennial reports that address the following items: 1. An assessment of progress in restoring the natural system, which is defined by section 601(a) of WRDA 2000 as all the land and water managed by the federal government and state within the South Florida ecosystem (see Figure 1-3 and Box 1-1); 10 Prepublication Copy
Introduction 2. A discussion of significant accomplishments of the restoration; 3. A 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. An 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). Given the broad charge, the complexity of the restoration, and the continually evolving circumstances, the committee did not presume it could cover all issues that affect restoration progress in any single report. This report builds on the past reports by this committee (NASEM, 2016, 2018; NRC, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012a, 2014) and emphasizes restoration progress since 2018, high-priority scientific and engineering issues that the committee judged to be relevant to this time frame, and other issues that have impacted the pace of progress. The committee focused particularly on issues for which the âtiming was rightââwhere the committeeâs advice could be useful relative to the decision-making time framesâ and on topics that had not been fully addressed in past National Academies Everglades reports. Interested readers should look to past reports by this committee to find detailed discussions of important topics, such as Lake Okeechobee (NASEM, 2018; NRC, 2008), new information impacting the CERP (NASEM, 2016), the need for a midcourse assessment (NASEM, 2016, 2018), climate change (NASEM, 2016; NRC, 2014), invasive species (NRC, 2014), and water quality and quantity challenges and trajectories (NRC, 2010, 2012a). Past reports have also discussed various aspects of the CERP monitoring and assessment plan (NRC, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012a, 2014), including project-level monitoring (NASEM, 2018). FIGURE 1-1 Reconstructed (a) predrainage (circa 1850) and (b) current (1994) satellite images of the Everglades ecosystem. NOTE: The yellow line in (a) outlines the historical Everglades ecosystem, and the yellow line in (b) outlines the remnant Everglades ecosystem as of 1994. SOURCE: Courtesy of C. McVoy, J. Obeysekera, and W. Said, South Florida Water Management District. Prepublication Copy 11
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 BOX 1-1 Geographic Terms This box defines some key geographic terms used throughout this report. â¢ The Everglades, the Everglades ecosystem, or the remnant Everglades ecosystem refers to the present areas of sawgrass, marl prairie, and other wetlands and estuaries south of Lake Okeechobee (Figure 1-1b). â¢ The original, historical, or predrainage Everglades refers to the areas of sawgrass, marl prairie, and other wetlands and estuaries south of Lake Okeechobee that existed prior to the construction of drainage canals beginning in the late 1800s (Figure 1-1a). â¢ The Everglades watershed is the drainage that encompasses the Everglades ecosystem but also includes the Kissimmee River watershed and other smaller watersheds north of Lake Okeechobee that ultimately supply water to the Everglades ecosystem. â¢ The South Florida ecosystem (also known as the Greater Everglades Ecosystem; see Figure 1-2) extends from the headwaters of the Kissimmee River near Orlando through Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades into Florida Bay and ultimately the Florida Keys. The boundaries of the South Florida ecosystem are determined by the boundaries of the South Florida Water Management District, the southernmost of the stateâs five water management districts, although they approximately delineate the boundaries of the South Florida watershed. This designation is important and helpful to the restoration effort because, as many publications have made clear, taking a watershed approach to ecosystem restoration is likely to improve the results, especially when the ecosystem under consideration is as water dependent as the Everglades (NRC, 1999, 2004). â¢ The Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) include WCA-1 (the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge), -2A, -2B, -3A, and -3B (see Figure 1-2). â¢ The following represent legally defined geographic terms used in this report: â¢ The Everglades Protection Area is defined in the Everglades Forever Act as comprising WCA-1, -2A, -2B, -3A, and -3B and Everglades National Park. â¢ The natural system is legally defined in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000) as âall land and water managed by the Federal Government or the State within the South Florida ecosystemâ (see Figure 1-3). âThe term ânatural systemâ includes (i) water conservation areas; (ii) sovereign submerged land; (iii) Everglades National Park; (iv) Biscayne National Park; (v) Big Cypress National Preserve; (vi) other Federal or State (including a political subdivision of a State) land that is designated and managed for conservation purposes; and (vii) any tribal land that is designated and managed for conservation purposes, as approved by the tribe.â Many maps in this report include shorthand designations that use letters and numbers for engineered additions to the South Florida ecosystem. For example, canals are labeled C-#; levees and associated borrow canals as L-#; and structures, such as culverts, locks, pumps, spillways, control gates, and weirs, as S-# or G-#. The full committee met in person four times and twice virtually during the course of this review and received briefings at its public meetings from agencies, organizations, and individuals involved in the restoration, as well as from the public. The committee also held six information-gathering web conferences and participated in four field trips. In addition to information received during the meetings, the committee based its assessment of progress on information in relevant CERP and non-CERP restoration documents. The committeeâs conclusions and recommendations were also informed by a review of relevant scientific literature and the experience and knowledge of the committee members in their fields of expertise. The committee was unable to consider in any detail new materials received after April 2020. The report was originally scheduled for release in September 2020, but a delay in the contract renewal near the end of the study led to a 4-month gap in the review process. Only minor updates were made to the report to reflect major changes during this period. 12 Prepublication Copy
Introduction FIGURE 1-2 The South Florida ecosystem. SOURCE: International Mapping Associates. Reprinted with permission; copyright 2021, International Mapping Associates. Prepublication Copy 13
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 FIGURE 1-3 Land and waters managed by the State of Florida and the federal government as of December 2005 for conservation purposes within the South Florida ecosystem. SOURCE: Based on data compiled by Florida State Universityâs Florida Natural Areas Inventory (http://www.fnai.org/gisdata.cfm), International Mapping Associates. Reprinted with permission; copyright 2021, International Mapping Associates. REPORT ORGANIZATION In Chapter 2, the committee provides an overview of the CERP in the context of other ongoing restoration activities and discusses the restoration goals that guide the overall effort. In Chapter 3, the committee analyzes the natural system restoration progress associated with CERP and non-CERP projects, along with programmatic factors and planning efforts that affect future progress. In Chapter 4, the committee reviews the benefits provided by the Combined Operating Plan (COP), its planning process, and the opportunities presented through adaptive management. In Chapter 5, the committee performs an in-depth analysis of estuaries and coastal systems within the context of CERP projects. In Chapter 6, the committee discusses systems thinking and science to support decision making. 14 Prepublication Copy