Task force expected to unveil plan to fast-track Everglades restoration

Everglades National Park (Pic by Rodney Cammauf, National Park Service; via army.mil)

An Everglades restoration task force meeting today is expected to unveil a new plan to fast-track restoration in South Florida’s “River of Grass.” According to McClatchy, the plan will look at ways to reduce pollution that is damaging the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and provide more natural flows throughout the Central Everglades.

The Everglades and its estuaries have born the brunt of nutrient pollution coming from industry effluent in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen — along with mercury which, when coupled with sulfur, can be come especially dangerous — have led to a host of problems in the ecosystem, problems such as algal blooms and diminishing populations of certain native species. Fertilizers used in sugar fields and vegetable farms, as well as in South Florida suburban lawns, have contributed a sizable amount of the pollution that eventually makes its way into the Everglades.

Phosphorus cleanup in the Everglades (which requires reducing the flow of phosphorus to 10 parts of phosphorus per billion in the water) has experienced several delays. A 2006 deadline was established in 1994, but eventually pushed back to 2012 by the state Legislature. The Legislature has since pushed that deadline even further — to 2016.

The fast-track plan, which is a pilot program of the Army Corps of Engineers, will aim to speed up those restoration efforts.

Though he recently met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to discuss Everglades restoration, Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn’t known as a champion of environmental restoration. According to Florida Environments, Salazar recently spoke with the Society of Environmental Journalists about his discussion with Scott, but said “the jury is still out” on his Everglades plan. Florida Environments also quoted author Carl Hiassen, who said that, following his win, Scott (wearing a pair of alligator boots) told journalists that “if it were up to him they would just shoot the alligators.”

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