Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 1
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Summary Florida’s Everglades have been transformed in the past century by urban and agricultural development. Once encompassing 3 million acres, they are now about half that size, and their waters are polluted with phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury, and pesticides. Associated drainage and flood-control structures have diverted large quantities of water to the ocean, reducing the freshwater inflows that defined the original ecosystem. The altered hydrologic system has contributed to dramatic declines in populations of wading birds, a 67 percent decline in the area of tree islands, and manifold changes in the ecosystem of Florida Bay. Invasive exotic species occupy much of the Everglades watershed, cattail has replaced vast areas of native sawgrass marsh, and 68 plant and animal species in South Florida are listed as federally threatened or endangered. Restoration of what remains of the Everglades ecosystem became the focus of activities that began in the 1990s and continue today, representing one of the most ambitious ecosystem restoration projects ever conceived. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was unveiled in 1999 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The CERP aims to achieve ecological restoration by reestablishing hydrologic characteristics as close as possible to their pre-drainage conditions in what remains of the Everglades ecosystem, recognizing that irreversible changes to the landscape make restoration to full pre-drainage conditions impossible. The CERP includes more than 40 major projects and 68 project components to be constructed at an estimated cost of $10.9 billion in 2004 dollars. The projects embodied in the CERP are expected to take more than three decades to complete. The Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress was established in 2004 in response to a request from the USACE, with support from the SFWMD and the U.S. Department of the Interior, based on Congress’s mandate in the Water Resources Develop-
OCR for page 2
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 BOX S-1 Statement of Task This congressionally mandated activity will review the progress toward achieving the restoration goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The committee will meet approximately four times annually to receive briefings on the current status of the CERP and scientific issues involved in implementing the Plan. It will publish a report every other year providing: 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; discussion of significant accomplishments of the restoration; discussion and evaluation of specific scientific and engineering issues that may impact progress in achieving the natural system restoration goals of the Plan; and 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). ment Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000). The committee is charged to submit biennial reports that review the CERP’s progress in restoring the natural system (see Box S-1). This is the committee’s first report in a series of biennial evaluations that are scheduled to last the lifetime of the CERP. The committee concludes that much good science has been developed to support the restoration efforts and that progress has been made in CERP program support, particularly in the monitoring and assessment program. However, no CERP projects have been completed to date, and anticipated restoration progress in the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) and Everglades National Park appears to be lagging behind the production of natural system restoration benefits in other portions of the South Florida ecosystem. Additionally there have been some troubling delays in some projects that are important to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. These delays have resulted from several factors, including budgetary restrictions and a project planning process that that can be stalled by unresolved scientific uncertainties. Restoration benefits from early water storage projects remain uncertain because decisions have not yet been made regarding water allocations for the natural system.
OCR for page 3
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 SOUTH FLORIDA ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force), an intergovernmental body established to facilitate coordination in the restoration effort, has three broad strategic goals for the South Florida ecosystem:1 (1) “get the water right;” (2) “restore, preserve, and protect natural habitats and species;” and (3) “foster compatibility of the built and natural systems.” These goals encompass, but are not limited to, the CERP. The goal of the CERP, as stated in WRDA 2000, is “restoration, preservation, and protection of the South Florida Ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.” The Programmatic Regulations that guide implementation of the CERP further clarify this goal by defining restoration as “the recovery and protection of the South Florida ecosystem so that it once again achieves and sustains the essential hydrological and biological characteristics that defined the undisturbed South Florida ecosystem.” These defining characteristics include a large areal extent of interconnected wetlands, extremely low concentrations of nutrients in freshwater wetlands, sheet flow, healthy and productive estuaries, resilient plant communities, and an abundance of native wetland animals. At the same time, the CERP is charged to maintain current levels of flood protection and to provide for other water-related needs, including water supply, for a rapidly growing human population in South Florida. Although the CERP contributes to each of the Task Force goals, it focuses primarily on restoring the hydrologic features of the undeveloped wetlands remaining in the South Florida ecosystem, on the assumption that improvements in ecological conditions should follow. Both political and scientific issues contribute to the difficulty of specifying restoration goals. The goals, therefore, cannot be viewed as fixed endpoints but are instead approximations of the objectives that should be developed by careful analyses and reevaluated as new knowledge emerges. Even with clearly articulated restoration goals, disparate expectations for restoration may exist among stakeholders, including both its geographic extent and its functional characteristics. The Everglades restoration efforts are thus occurring in a challenging environment. Restoration Activities Several restoration programs, including the CERP—the largest of the initiatives—are now under way. The CERP, led by the USACE and the 1 See Box 1-1 for definitions of geographic terms used in this report.
OCR for page 4
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 SFWMD, consists primarily of projects to increase storage capacity (e.g., conventional surface-water reservoirs, aquifer storage and recovery, in-ground reservoirs), improve water quality (e.g., stormwater treatment areas [STAs]), reduce loss of water from the system (e.g., seepage management, water reuse, and conservation), and reestablish pre-drainage hydrologic patterns wherever possible (e.g., removing barriers to sheet flow, rainfall-driven water management). The largest portion of the budget is devoted to water storage and conservation and to acquiring the lands needed for those projects. The CERP builds upon other activities of the state and federal government aimed at restoration (hereafter, non-CERP activities), many of which are essential to the success of the CERP. These include Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) and modification of the C-111 canal—projects that will alter hydrologic patterns to more closely resemble pre-drainage conditions. Several non-CERP projects address water quality issues, including the Everglades Construction Project (construction of over 44,000 acres of STAs), restoration of the Kissimmee River, and restoration of Lake Okeechobee and its estuaries. In addition, research on and management of invasive species is important to the overall restoration program. Finally, the state of Florida’s Acceler8 initiative is a mix of accelerated CERP project components and some non-CERP components. What Natural System Restoration Requires Although “getting the water right” is the oft-stated and immediate practical goal, the ultimate restoration goal is to reestablish the distinctive characteristics of the historical Everglades to what remains of the undeveloped South Florida ecosystem. Getting the water right is a means to an end, not the end in itself. Natural system restoration will be best served by moving the system as quickly as possible toward physical, chemical, and biological conditions that previously molded and maintained the historical Everglades. Toward this end, this committee judges five components of the Everglades restoration to be critical: enough water-storage capacity combined with operations that provide appropriate volumes of water to support healthy estuaries and the return of sheet flow through the Everglades ecosystem while meeting other demands for water; mechanisms for delivering and distributing the water to the natural
OCR for page 5
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 system in a way that resembles historical flow patterns, affecting volume, depth, velocity, direction, distribution, and timing of flows; barriers to eastward seepage of water so that higher water levels can be maintained in parts of the Everglades ecosystem without compromising the current levels of flood protection of developed areas as required by the CERP; methods for securing water quality conditions compatible with restoration goals for a natural system that was inherently extremely nutrient poor, particularly with respect to phosphorus; and retention, improvement, and expansion of the full range of habitats by preventing further losses of critical wetland and estuarine habitats and by protecting lands that could usefully be part of the restored ecosystem. If these five critical components of restoration are achieved and the difficult problem of invasive species can be managed, then the basic physical, chemical, and biological processes that created the historical Everglades can once again create a functional mosaic of biotic communities that resemble what was distinctive about the historical Everglades. However, the remaining Everglades landscape will continue to move away from conditions that support the defining ecosystem processes until greater progress is made in implementing CERP and non-CERP projects. Rapid population growth, with its attendant demands on land and water resources for development, water supply, flood protection, and recreation, only heightens the challenges facing the restoration efforts. Yet, despite new challenges and complexities, some positive examples of restoration progress offer hope that restoration is within reach given continued state and federal support. PROMISING EXAMPLES OF RESTORATION PROGRESS Restoring the Everglades is still in its early stages. It is too early to evaluate the response of the ecosystem to the current restoration program, because no CERP projects have been constructed. It is also too soon to fully assess the effects of non-CERP activities that are already under way, because the ecosystem is only beginning to respond to changes that these projects are designed to effect. However, several non-CERP activities are positive harbingers of future CERP programs. For example, the Kissimmee River Restoration Project has shown demonstrable ecological improvements and benefits to the natural system.
OCR for page 6
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Improvements in the restored portions of the formerly channelized river include increases in river dissolved oxygen, increased density of wading birds, and colonization of the filled canal with wetland vegetation. Among several lessons learned from this project is that natural system restoration can be performed while continuing to maintain the flood-control function of the original channelization project. These achievements should be cause for cautious optimism that the CERP can achieve positive results as well. Stormwater treatment areas and best management practices, implemented as part of non-CERP initiatives started in the 1990s, have proven remarkably effective at reducing phosphorus levels found in agricultural runoff. While falling short of the goal of 10 parts per billion (ppb) total phosphorus in the ambient waters, flow-weighted effluent concentrations from the STAs averaging 41 ppb are much reduced from influent concentrations that average 147 ppb. Because water quality is such a critical aspect of ecosystem restoration, additional research is needed to evaluate the need for additional acreage of STAs, to enhance removal of phosphorus and other constituents within these treatment wetlands, and to investigate their long-term sustainability. The Mod Waters and C-111 projects have suffered long delays but are now moving forward, although Mod Waters should be completed without further delay. The Mod Waters and C-111 projects are non-CERP foundation projects that are necessary prerequisites to the CERP. Mod Waters represents a first major step toward restoration of the WCAs and Everglades National Park and a valuable opportunity to learn about the response of the natural system to restoration of sheet flow. Since the Mod Waters project is an assumed precursor for the WCA 3 Decompartmentalization and Sheet Flow Enhancement—Part 1 (Decomp) project, further delays in the project’s completion may ultimately delay funding appropriations for Decomp. Additionally, limitations in its scope, such as in the extent of levee removal, may compromise the ultimate effectiveness of Decomp and restoration of flow to Northeast Shark River Slough. CERP PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION During the first 6 years after WRDA 2000 was authorized, significant progress has been made in program support efforts, particularly in the monitoring and assessment program and the development of an adaptive management strategy, which represents the pathway by which science is used in support of decision making. Yet progress in CERP project implementation has been uneven, and many projects have been significantly delayed. Cur-
OCR for page 7
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 rent barriers to project planning and implementation, highlighted below, threaten the timely delivery of restoration benefits. Progress in the Use of Science in Decision Making The committee reviewed three major science program documents that collectively provide a foundation for ensuring that scientific information needed to support restoration planning will be available in a timely way. The committee also examined the extensive set of models that have been developed to support restoration planning and adaptive management. The Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP) documents reviewed describe a well-designed, statistically defensible monitoring program and an ambitious assessment strategy. The plan provides for a continuous cycle of monitoring and experimentation, as well as regular and frequent assessment of the findings. In combination, the MAP provides an approach to reduce uncertainty associated with the conceptual ecological models that are the foundation of the monitoring plan and to create new knowledge for understanding old and emerging problems. The MAP should also help identify information gaps to support adaptive management. Implementation of the monitoring plan is occurring more slowly than planned. The effectiveness of the MAP as a component of the adaptive management strategy can be determined only by implementation. Each of the components of the MAP needs to be in place and tested to enable integration of scientific information into the decision-making process. A spatially and temporally robust baseline of monitoring data is essential for a rigorous assessment of restoration progress, and a well-planned information management system is required to facilitate effective information sharing. Additional key staff and staff-support positions devoted to information management and implementation of the monitoring activities are needed to facilitate more rapid implementation of the MAP. Continuing to winnow the number of performance measures from 83 to an even smaller subset that includes a limited number of whole-system performance measures would help ensure that the MAP is sustainable over the lifetime of the CERP. The CERP Adaptive Management Strategy provides a sound organizational model for the execution of a passive adaptive management program. The strategy should be implemented soon to test and refine the approach. The CERP Adaptive Management Strategy proposes a process for addressing uncertainty and supporting collaborative decision making. Although the objectives, mechanisms, and responsibilities are well specified in the Adaptive Management Strategy, the all-critical linkages among the planning,
OCR for page 8
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 assessment, integration, and update activities require further development. The committee also judges that incorporating active adaptive management practices whenever possible will reduce the likelihood of making management mistakes and reduce the overall cost of the restoration. Regardless of which adaptive management approach is used, it remains to be seen how willing decision makers will be to make significant alterations to project design and sequencing, as opposed to limiting adaptive management to making modest adjustments in the operation of CERP projects after their construction. A coordinated, multidisciplinary approach is required to improve modeling tools and focus modeling efforts toward direct support of the CERP adaptive management process. Models are used to forecast the short- and long-term responses of the South Florida ecosystem to CERP projects and, thus, are the critical starting point for adaptive management. An impressive variety of models has been developed to support the CERP, but better linkages between models, especially between hydrologic and ecological models, are needed to better integrate scientific knowledge and to extrapolate new information to the spatial scales at which decisions are made. In addition, hydrologic models suffer from the lack of high-resolution input data describing the basic terrain, so that their predictions are sometimes in error, and their connections to other more high-resolution ecosystem models is difficult. The development of quantitative ecological models is lagging behind the development of hydrologic models. Because models themselves must be improved through comparison with actual outcomes, coordination between modeling and monitoring efforts, within the adaptive management framework of iterative improvement, should be a high priority. Status of CERP Planning and Coordination The large size of the South Florida ecosystem as well as the cost, complexity, and number of years required to complete the CERP necessitates that the restoration effort be carefully planned and coordinated. Therefore, the committee reviewed several important planning, financing, and coordination issues that influence the progress being made on natural system restoration. Although progress has been made in the planning, coordination, and program management functions required to implement the CERP, there have been significant delays in the expected completion dates of several construction projects that contribute to natural system restoration. Between 2000 and 2004 the USACE and SFWMD largely focused on develop-
OCR for page 9
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 ing a complex coordinating structure for planning and implementing CERP projects. However, while the management structures were being refined, all 10 of the CERP components that were scheduled for completion by 2005 were delayed. Additionally, six pilot projects originally scheduled for completion by 2004 are expected to be delayed on average by 8 years. The project implementation delays seem to be the result of a number of factors, including budgetary and manpower restrictions, the need to negotiate resolutions to major concerns or agency disagreements in the planning process, and a project planning process that can be stalled by unresolved scientific uncertainties, especially for complex or contentious projects. The observed project delays are of concern because they have affected projects on which substantial benefits to the natural ecosystem depend. The Decomp project has been significantly delayed, although recent plans to implement an active adaptive management approach may move the project forward. Progress in implementing Decomp has been slowed by conflicts among stakeholders and inherent constraints in project planning in the face of scientific uncertainties. The committee is also concerned that project planning procedures may favor project alternatives that are limited in scope over project designs with less certain outcomes that have the potential to offer greater restoration benefits. Both the Decomp Physical Model and the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment experiments should help resolve some of the uncertainties that are constraining the project planning process. These are impressive adaptive management activities that should improve the likelihood of restoration success. Progress could be enhanced further if these experiments pave the way for additional experiments, some at even larger scales, that could be incorporated into an incremental approach to restoration. Production of natural system restoration benefits within the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park is lagging behind production of natural system restoration benefits in other portions of the South Florida ecosystem. The eight Acceler8 projects should provide ecological benefits primarily to the Lake Okeechobee region, the northern estuaries, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and Biscayne Bay. Expected restoration benefits to the WCAs and Everglades National Park largely come from one project—the WCA 3A/B Seepage Management. The Acceler8 program may also provide momentum to the remaining restoration projects by hastening early construction efforts. Because determinations to allocate the water captured by the Acceler8 storage projects have not yet been finalized, future projections of benefits to the South Florida ecosystem remain unclear.
OCR for page 10
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 Federal funding will need to be significantly increased if the original CERP commitments are to be met on schedule. Inflation, project scope changes, and program coordination expenses have increased the original cost estimate of the CERP from $8.2 billion (in 1999 dollars) to $10.9 billion (in 2004 dollars). Further delays will add to this increase, particularly because of the escalating cost of real estate in South Florida. Despite these cost increases, current planned federal expenditures for fiscal year (FY) 2005 to FY 2009 fall far short of even those envisioned in the original CERP implementation plan. Although the CERP is intended to be a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement between the federal and nonfederal (state and local) governments, federal expenditures from 2005 to 2009 are expected to be only 21 percent of the total. If federal funding for the CERP does not increase, major restoration projects directed toward the federal government’s primary interests (e.g., Everglades National Park) may not be completed in a timely way. The active land acquisition efforts should be continued, accompanied by monitoring and regular reporting on land conversion patterns in the South Florida ecosystem. Land management for a successful CERP depends on acquiring particular sites within the project area and protecting more general areas within the South Florida ecosystem that could help meet the broad restoration goals. The committee commends the state of Florida for its aggressive and effective financial support for acquiring important parcels. Rapidly rising land costs imply that land within the project area should be acquired as soon as possible. Given the importance of wetland development and land-use conversion to the restoration potential of the CERP, the state should closely monitor and regularly report land conversion patterns within the South Florida ecosystem to stakeholders. A significant challenge for the CERP is to implement the plan in a timely fashion while maintaining the federal and state partnership and the coalition of CERP stakeholders. The restoration of the Everglades rests on a fragile coalition of 66 signatory partners who agree in principle on the overarching goals of the CERP. Beyond the venerable notion of “getting the water right,” virtually every signatory may find some part of the CERP with which to disagree and may have different views on the trade-offs that will need to be made as plan implementation begins. One particular concern expressed by stakeholders is whether the water supply goals of the CERP are being unduly emphasized in the current CERP implementation plan at the expense of the natural system restoration goals. Of the many partnerships, the most important is that between the state of Florida and the USACE. The state’s Acceler8 initiative has raised concerns about disproportionate funding and control by the state over the implementation of the program. In the
OCR for page 11
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 end, success will require cooperation among a disparate group of organizations with differing missions as the broad goal of getting the water right is more precisely defined. AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO ADVANCING NATURAL SYSTEM RESTORATION To help address some sources of delay in the pace of restoration progress, including resolving conflicts over scientific uncertainty and addressing project sequencing constraints, the committee proposes an alternative framework for initiating and evaluating restoration actions, here called Incremental Adaptive Restoration (IAR). To accelerate restoration of the natural system and overcome current constraints on restoration progress, many future investments in the South Florida ecosystem could profitably use an IAR approach. An IAR approach makes investments in restoration that are significant enough to secure environmental benefits while also resolving important scientific uncertainties about how the natural system will respond to management interventions. An IAR approach is not simply a reshuffling of priorities in the project implementation schedule. Instead it reflects an incremental approach using steps that are large enough to provide some restoration benefits and address critical scientific uncertainties, but generally smaller than the CERP projects or project components themselves, since the purpose of the IAR is to take actions that promote learning and that can guide the remainder of the project design. The improved understanding that results from an IAR approach will provide the foundation for more rapidly advancing restoration benefits. Without appropriate application of an IAR approach, valuable opportunities for learning would be lost, and subsequent actions would likely achieve fewer or smaller environmental benefits than they would if they had built upon previous knowledge. IAR is likely to be of particular value in devising management strategies for dealing with complex ecosystem restoration projects for which probable ecosystem responses are poorly known and, hence, difficult to predict (e.g., the role of flows in establishing and maintaining tree islands and ridge-and-slough vegetation). An IAR approach would also help address current constraints on restoration progress, including Savings Clause requirements (assurance that existing water supply and flood-control obligations will be met during CERP implementation; see Box 2-1), water reservation obligations, water quality considerations, and stakeholder disagreements. An IAR approach would support the innovative adaptive management
OCR for page 12
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 program now being developed for the CERP. IAR can be used in combination with a rigorous monitoring and assessment program to test hypotheses, thereby yielding valuable information that can expedite future decision making. A significant advantage of IAR over the present CERP adaptive management approach is that there may be early restoration benefits, as major restoration projects proceed incrementally in ways that enhance learning, improve efficiency of future actions, and potentially reduce long-term costs. The existing authorization and budgeting process can be modified to accommodate the IAR process. To facilitate the IAR process and better support an adaptive management approach to the restoration effort, a modified programmatic authorization process would be needed that allows for the continuing reformulation and automatic authorization of added investment increments. This budgeting authority would still require securing individual appropriations for each new investment increment. This would constitute a variant of the current CERP programmatic authorization of groups of projects, where a project implementation report is required before the final authorization of a project is secured and funding can be requested. OVERALL EVALUATION OF PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES No CERP projects have been completed at this writing. Nonetheless, some conclusions are reasonably clear. First, the scientific program accompanying the restoration efforts has been of high quality and comprehensive. Important issues concerning scientific understanding, scientific coordination, and the incorporation of science into program planning and management remain, but the committee judges that no significant scientific uncertainty should stand in the way of restoration progress. Second, there have been some significant restoration achievements by non-CERP activities, most notably in reducing phosphorus inputs and loads and in restoring the Kissimmee River. Although those projects are not complete and the scientific and engineering challenges have not been entirely conquered, the achievements should be cause for cautious optimism that other elements of the program can achieve positive results as well. Natural system restoration will be best served by moving the ecosystem as quickly as possible toward biological and physical conditions that previously molded and maintained the Everglades. However, restoration progress has been uneven and beset by delays. The state of Florida’s Acceler8 and Lake Okeechobee and Estuary Recovery programs are providing a valuable surge in the pace of project implementation, especially in the northern
OCR for page 13
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 portions of the ecosystem and its estuaries, although the expected ecosystem benefits from early water storage projects remain uncertain. Other important projects, including the work to reestablish sheet flow in the WCAs and Everglades National Park, are far behind the original schedule. Some of the sources of delay, such as the expansion of the aquifer storage and recovery pilot projects to address important uncertainties, are in the best interest of overall restoration success. Other sources of delay, including budgetary restrictions and a project planning and authorization process that can be stalled by unresolved scientific uncertainties, merit additional attention from senior managers and policy makers. Escalating land and other prices affect the restoration’s budget, and federal funding has also fallen behind its original commitments. If federal funding for the CERP does not increase, restoration efforts focused on Everglades National Park and other federal interests may not be completed in a timely way. To help address the project planning concerns, the committee proposes an incremental adaptive-management-based approach, termed IAR, which can help resolve scientific uncertainties while enabling progress toward restoration goals. Finally, perhaps the largest challenge is maintaining the continued support of the coalition of stakeholders through the restoration process.
OCR for page 14
Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The First Biennial Review – 2006 This page intentionally left blank.
Representative terms from entire chapter: