“. . . The project in question, launched near the end of the Clinton administration, is an effort to restore the biological health of the Florida Everglades. Originally funded at $7.8 billion, the program is now more than 20 years old, and while some progress has been made, it has moved in fits and starts. It is now at a critical point, with several major plans on the cusp of success if the money can be found. Decisions taken in the next few months may well determine whether the Everglades project lives up to its promise of reviving the South Florida ecosystem.
The project is essentially a vast re-plumbing scheme aimed at replicating as nearly as possible the historical flows of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee — flows that a pioneer advocate named Marjory Stoneman Douglas called the River of Grass — that once made South Florida a biological wonderland. These flows slowed to trickle starting in the late 1940s when Congress ordered up a massive flood control project to protect Florida’s booming cities, which looked like a smart idea at the time.
A purple gallinule in the Royal Palm area of the Everglades National Park.
A mangrove island in the Florida Bay area of the park.
The Army Corps of Engineers responded by draining a half-million acres south of the lake with a vast web of levees, canals and pumping stations — an impressive piece of engineering that flushed Lake Okeechobee’s copious overflows out to sea and away from the cities instead of letting it move slowly and naturally southward, as it had for centuries. This made Florida’s eastern coast safe for development and its midlands safe for agriculture, in particular for the big sugar companies, but it was also an environmental disaster, robbing the Everglades and the fishing grounds of Florida Bay of their traditional sources of fresh water, and nearly killing both.” . . .