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Date:  June 21, 2012

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Focusing on Water for Central Everglades Essential to Reversing Whole Ecosystem's Continuing Decline, Says National Research Council

 

WASHINGTON — Twelve years into a multibillion-dollar state and federal effort to save the Florida Everglades, little progress has been made in restoring the core of the ecosystem, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council.  Expedited restoration projects that improve the quality and amount of water in this area are necessary to reverse ongoing declines.  A new federal pilot project offers an innovative approach to this challenge, although additional analysis is needed to maximize restoration benefits within existing legal constraints. 

 

The report is the fourth biennial evaluation of progress made by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a project launched in 2000 that aims to reverse the ecosystem's decline while continuing to meet demands for water supply and flood control.  The $13.5 billion effort comprises numerous projects to be completed over the next several decades. 

 

The committee that wrote the report found that restoration remains primarily focused on the periphery of the central Everglades.  Consequently, restoration efforts within the water conservation areas and Everglades National Park lag behind other portions.  Progress has been made to improve the system's water quality, such as reducing phosphorus and finalizing negotiations for additional water quality projects.  Nevertheless, there has been minimal success in increasing the amount and flow of water needed to restore the remnant system.  Key components that depend on the amount of water in the system, such as the ridge and slough and tree islands, continue to degrade.

 

"Unless near-term progress is made to improve water quantity and restore water flow, ecosystem losses will continue, many of which would require decades to centuries to recover," said William Boggess, chair of the committee and professor and executive associate dean of the college of agricultural sciences at Oregon State University, Corvallis.  "However, bringing in more water, or even redistributing existing water flows before water quality is improved, risks introducing levels of contaminants that would have substantial effects on the ecosystem and possibly exceed legal limits.  Analyzing the connections between water quality and quantity is one of the remaining challenges of the program, and will be a key component for moving forward." 

 

 The committee found that the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) -- one of five U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pilot projects nationwide that will test a new accelerated project planning process -- is an important and promising new initiative.  Its goal is to deliver an approved project implementation report on central Everglades restoration to Congress within two years instead of the typical six-year process.  At the completion of the committee's report, CEPP remained at an early stage, and no specific project plans were available for the committee to review. 

 

Over the past few years, scientific understanding has advanced and provides a solid foundation for decision making in the program, the committee said.  Investment in cutting-edge research, consolidated and timely synthesis, and effective monitoring are critical to supporting sound choices.  Additional use of integrated ecosystem modeling and decision support tools could facilitate restoration progress by clarifying potential restoration conflicts, identifying interim strategies for limiting further degradation of critical ecosystem components, and enhancing the capacity to address trade-offs in a more timely and integrated way. 

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and U.S. Department of the Interior.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.  Panel members, who serve pro bono as volunteers, are chosen by the Academies for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Academies' conflict-of-interest standards.  The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org/studycommitteprocess.pdf.  A committee roster follows.

 

Contacts: 

Jennifer Walsh, Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

 

Pre-publication copies of Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades – The Fourth Biennial Review, 2012 is available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Water Science and Technology Board

 

Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress

 


William G. Boggess (chair)

Professor and Executive Associate Dean

College of Agricultural Sciences

Oregon State University

Corvallis

 

Mary Jane Angelo

Professor of Law

Levin College of Law

University of Florida

Gainesville

 

David B. Ashley

Professor of Civil Engineering

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering

University of Nevada

Las Vegas

 

Charles T. Driscoll Jr.*

University Professor

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Syracuse University

Syracuse, N.Y.

 

William L. Graf

Foundation University Distinguished Professor, Emeritus

University of South Carolina

Columbia

 

Wendy D. Graham

Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources, and

Director

Water Institute

University of Florida

Gainesville

 

Samuel N. Luoma

Emeritus Senior Research Hydrologist

Water Resources Division

U.S. Geological Survey

Menlo Park, Calif.

 

David R. Maidment

Hussein M. Alharthy Centennial Chair in Civil Engineering, and

Director

Center for Research in Water Resources

University of Texas

Austin

 

David H. Moreau

Research Professor

Department of City and Regional Planning

University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill

 

K. Ramesh Reddy

Graduate Research Professor and Chair

Department of Soil and Water Science

University of Florida

Gainesville

 

Helen Regan

Assistant Professor

Department of Biology

University of California

Riverside

 

Eliska Rejmankova

Professor

Department of Environmental Science and Policy

University of California

Davis

 

Jeffrey R. Walters

Harold Bailey Professor of Biology

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg

 

STAFF

 

Stephanie Johnson

Study Director

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* Member, National Academy of Engineering