The Everglades National Park Going Through The Largest Environmental Restoration


Twenty-four years ago, the nascent Good News Network highlighted a pivotal moment in environmental history: a congressional vote aimed at reviving the Florida Everglades. Representative Clay Shaw, a figure who has since left office and passed away, described the initiative as “the biggest environmental restoration project in the history of the world.” This endeavor sought to reverse the detrimental effects of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decades-long “Drain the Everglades” undertaking, which commenced in 1949.

Today, that vision has evolved into a comprehensive plan encompassing over 60 infrastructure projects, with a staggering budget of $20 billion dedicated to performing what can only be likened to “heart bypass surgery” for the ecosystem. The fiscal year 2024 budget alone allocated $740 million towards this noble cause, earning applause from organizations like the Everglades Foundation.

Highlighted on CBS Mornings, the ramifications of the “Drain the Everglades” project were severe. The disconnection of Lake Okeechobee from the Everglades ecosystem disrupted a delicate balance. Historically, this vast lake served as the primary source replenishing the Everglades’ 300-mile expanse of “river of grass.” Its removal precipitated a drastic decline in both water quality and quantity.

Despite South Florida’s inherently wet climate, the region has grappled with a myriad of environmental crises stemming from Lake Okeechobee’s water loss. These include seagrass die-offs, exacerbation of red tide, wildfires within the Everglades, and rampant blue-green algae blooms.

The focal point of contemporary restoration efforts lies in reconnecting the “beating heart” of the ecosystem — Lake Okeechobee — with the millions of acres it sustains. The initial step involved the construction of a vast reservoir south of the lake, a project already underway. Subsequent endeavors will involve elevating Tamiami Trail, an east-west thoroughfare notorious for impeding crucial water flow to the southern Everglades.

However, challenges persist. Florida’s sugar plantations pose a significant obstacle to restoration efforts. Runoff from these agricultural expanses threatens to contaminate the Everglades. In response, the state has embarked on an ambitious endeavor: the creation of the largest man-made wetland on Earth, spanning 63,000 acres. This colossal undertaking was funded upfront by the state, with polluters bearing the financial burden through a pollution tax, notably targeting the sugar industry.

Anticipated completion of the reservoir is slated for 2036, with proponents of restoration acknowledging that it may take an additional 15 years before South Florida’s landscape and inhabitants truly reap the benefits of these endeavors.

These strides represent incremental progress in a grandiose undertaking that seeks to reshape the very fabric of South Florida’s ecology and society. While the project may not aim to move mountains, its ambition is to restore the Everglades to its former glory — a vibrant ecosystem that stands unparalleled in its size and complexity on a global scale.



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