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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Everglades Restoration: Federal Funding and Implementation Progress

Charles V. Stern
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Everglades is a unique network of subtropical wetlands in South Florida that is approximately half of its historical size, due in part to degradation from federal water projects. In 2000, Congress authorized a 30-year plan, termed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem in southern Florida. When originally authorized, it was estimated that CERP would cost a total of $8.2 billion and take approximately 30 years to complete. More recent estimates indicate that the plan would take approximately 50 years to implement, and would cost $13.5 billion.

Under CERP, the federal government (through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior) is required to fund half of the costs for restoration, with an array of state, tribal, and local agencies paying the other half. In addition to activities under CERP, a number of other federal and state efforts that pre-date CERP (known collectively as “non-CERP” or “Foundation” activities) also contribute to Everglades restoration. While non-CERP efforts are technically not included in CERP, the two sets of activities are widely viewed as complementary.

Since passage of CERP in 2000, the federal investment in the Everglades has increased. As of the end of FY2012, the federal government had provided $1 billion in funding for CERP, with the state providing matching funds for CERP projects, as well as advanced funding for land acquisition and construction for expected future CERP projects. Federal funding for non-CERP activities (most of which pre-date CERP) has also continued over this time period. These efforts are estimated to total more than $3 billion as of 2011. While estimates of nonfederal (i.e., state) funding contributions to CERP and related restoration efforts vary widely depending on what methodology is employed, most agree that, to date, the state of Florida has spent significantly more on Everglades restoration than has the federal government.

Progress has been made on a number of Everglades restoration projects, although overall progress to date has fallen short of initial goals. As of 2012, the majority of the land necessary for restoration projects under CERP had been acquired, and significant progress has been made on non-CERP activities (including improved water deliveries to Everglades National Park). Construction has also been initiated on four CERP projects, and studies have been completed or are underway for a number of other CERP projects. Despite this progress, some projects have seen setbacks in the form of schedule delays and cost escalations. Additionally, new or revised authorizations will be required for many projects to go forward. These impediments may have the effect of further delaying restoration efforts.

Reductions to state funding and the lack of new Everglades CERP authorizations in the Water Resources Development Act have increased attention to the congressional role in Everglades restoration. Debate and resolution of these issues has implications, both for ecosystem restoration in the Everglades and for large-scale restoration initiatives elsewhere.

This report provides information on federal appropriations for Everglades restoration and provides a brief summary of accomplishments and potential challenges for Everglades restoration.

Date of Report: February 26, 2013
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R42007
Price: $29.95

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