of Grass initiative. Prior to this announcement, the SFWMD had facilitated an engaging and inclusive River of Grass planning process and created an impressive set of data visualization tools to support the effort. As of mid-2010, the specific benefits that will accrue to the CERP from the River of Grass initiative cannot be determined, because the planning and design process has not been completed and the availability of funding to support future land purchases is unknown. Also, it remains unclear how successfully other political and economic constraints can or will be addressed for the remaining “option” lands (e.g., reality of land swaps, opportunity costs, stakeholder concerns) and how the initiative will be coordinated with the CERP.
Given the slower-than-anticipated pace of implementation and unreliable funding schedule, projects should be scheduled with the aim of achieving substantial restoration benefits as soon as possible. The latest Integrated Delivery Schedule appears consistent with this goal and should generate substantial restoration benefits by 2020. Although many projects have been delayed, aggressive schedules have been maintained (as of the March 2010 IDS) for the Decomp project, seepage management, and critical foundation projects. These projects offer significant restoration benefits to the remnant Everglades ecosystem, but the benefits cannot be fully realized without the provision of additional water, which will require substantial new storage and associated water quality treatment.
Maintaining political and public support for Everglades restoration will be critical to future CERP progress. Multiple decades of sustained commitment and a high level of public funding will be needed to complete the CERP. Maintaining this commitment will be a continuing challenge, and early, demonstrable public and ecological benefits from restoration activities are keys to retaining public support.