Oct. 17, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Agencies Responsible for Everglades Restoration Should Conduct Mid Course Assessment Considering Climate Change and Sea-level Rise – New Report

WASHINGTON – As new evidence about climate change and sea-level rise in South Florida continues to emerge, agencies responsible for the restoration of the Everglades should conduct a mid course assessment that rigorously analyzes scenarios of future change to the region’s ecosystem in its planning, says a new congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

This is the seventh biennial report on the progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a multibillion dollar effort designed by the state and the federal government and launched in 2000 to reverse the decline of the Everglades.  A large and treasured ecosystem, Everglades has been dramatically altered by drainage and water management infrastructure that was intended to improve flood control, urban water supply, and agricultural production. 

The original CERP was created on a pre-drainage vision of the historical Everglades and the assumption that specific rainfall and temperatures observed during the 1965-1999 period of record captured the full range of changes expected throughout the 21st century.  However, there is now significant evidence that the South Florida climate is changing and that sea-level rise is accelerating.  These changes will have profound impacts on the region’s ecosystem and the ability of the water management infrastructure to provide flood protection and meet future water demands, the report warns. 

Although the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has begun to conduct forward-looking analyses for flood management projects outside of the restoration, CERP agencies do not adequately take these changes into account in project planning and have not systematically analyzed these threats in the context of the CERP, the report says. The information obtained through these analyses can potentially inform robust decisions about planning, funding, sequencing, and adaptive management.

“The restoration efforts are likely to have noteworthy benefits that increase the resilience of the ecosystem in the face of climate change, but these benefits have not yet been adequately studied or quantified,” said Bill Boggess, professor of applied economics at Oregon State University and chair of the committee that authored the report.  “With seven large projects to be constructed and three more nearing the end of their planning process, this is the opportune time for a mid course assessment.”

A more rigorous analysis of potential effects of climate change and sea-level rise on restoration outcomes is necessary in planning for all projects, so that investments are designed for the system to be more resilient to future conditions, the report says.

Highlighting the progress made toward the restoration goals, the committee noted that the last two years have been marked by continued on-the-ground construction progress, the completion of two major foundational projects, Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade; and continued improvements in water quality.  In addition, impressive efforts have been made in the planning of four projects that propose additional storage of water – advancing a key CERP vision – since the last Academies report on CERP’s progress was released in 2016.  These include the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, Western Everglades Restoration Project, and Loxahatchee River Watershed Project.  However, the plan lacks a holistic understanding of the benefits of the combined projects at a system wide level and their resilience to sea level rise and climate change.

As new information becomes available, the committee called for full implementation of adaptive management plans and improved monitoring to substantially increase learning about the restoration process.  Adaptive management supports and improves decision-making as new knowledge surfaces about how the ecosystem is responding to restoration and to changing future conditions like climate change that may affect restoration outcomes.  Currently, only one of the three early CERP projects analyzed has an adaptive management plan. Without such a plan, the report says, it is difficult to structure monitoring and evaluation so that new knowledge can be applied in a flexible decision-making process.

Additionally, to ensure that the agencies have the latest scientific knowledge and tools to successfully plan and implement the restoration program, the committee recommended establishing a science program focused on understanding the impacts of current and future threats on the South Florida ecosystem.

The study was sponsored by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of the Interior, and South Florida Water Management District.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://nationalacademies.org. A committee roster follows.

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Riya V. Anandwala, Media Relations Officer
Andrew Robinson, Media Relations Assistant
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202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

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Copies of Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Seventh Biennial Review - 2018 are available at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313  or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

Division on Earth and Life Studies
Water Science and Technology Board
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology

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, and
Director
Environmental and Land Use Law Program
Levin College of Law
University of Florida
Gainesville

Charley Driscoll1
University and Distinguished Professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and
Director
Center for Environmental Systems Engineering
Syracuse University
Syracuse, N.Y.

M. Siobhan Fennessy
Jordan Professor of Biology and Environmental Science
Kenyon College
Gambier, OH

Wendy D. Graham
Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and
Director
Water Institute
University of Florida
Gainesville

Karl E. Havens
Professor, and
Director
Florida Sea Grant
University of Florida
Gainesville

Fernando R. Miralles-Wilhelm
Executive Director
Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, and
Professor
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
University of Maryland
College Park

David H. Moreau
Research Professor
Department of City and Regional Planning
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill

Gordon H. Orians2
Professor Emeritus of Biology
University of Washington
Seattle

Denise J. Reed
Research Professor Gratis
Pontchartrain Institute of Environmental Sciences
University of New Orleans
New Orleans

James E. Saiers
Professor of Hydrology, and
Professor of Chemical Engineering
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.

Eric P. Smith
Professor
Department of Statistics
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg

Denice H. Wardrop
Professor of Geography and Ecology, and
Director
Sustainability Institute, and
Assistant Director
Institutes of Energy and the Environment
Pennsylvania State University
University Park

Greg D. Woodside
Executive Director of Planning and Natural Resources
Orange County Water District
Fountain Valley, Calif.

STAFF

Stephanie E. Johnson
Staff Officer

1Member, National Academy of Engineering
2Member, National Academy of Sciences