Figure 1. Satellite Image of South Florida (Short,  2006).

For interactive maps and history on the Everglades



Timeline Overview

click on links for more information on specific legislature

1907:  Everglades Drainage District

1913: General Drainage Act

1929:  Lake Okeechobee Flood Control District

1945:  State Board of Conservation

1947:  Water Survey and Research Division

1947:  Everglades National Park (first National Park created for preservation of unique ecosystem)

1948:  Central and South Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SF)

1948:  Everglades Agricultural Area

1955: Florida Geological Survey  (absorbed by Water Survey and Research Division)

1961:  Southwest Florida Water Management District  (SWFWMD)

1971:  Environmental Policy Act

1972:  Florida Water Resources Act

1972:  Florida Land Conservation Act

1983:  Florida Water Quality Assurance Act

1984:  Warren Henderson's Wetlands Protection Act

1987:  Surface Water Improvement and Management Act (SWIM)

1993:  South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

1994:  Everglades Forever Act

1999:  Governor's Commission for the Everglades

2000:  Estuary Restoration Act

2001:  Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act (REAL, authorizing CERP)

2001:  Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)

Timeline obtained from:  NOAA, 2004; Dugger, 1996; (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005; Munson, 2005;  ENP, 2000.


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The Florida Everglades is one of the largest and youngest ecosystems in the world.  Having surfaced in the last 6,000 to 8,000 years since the last ice age, the Everglades have undergone substantial changes in this short geologic time (ENP, 2002).  In the last 200 years Everglades have been drained, dammed, and diked all in the name of  development.  Even before Florida became a state, the 100 mile wide, 300 mile long “River of Grass” (that covered 54 percent of the state) was being drained so land could be sold for settlement  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005).  The Everglades naturally drained the entire subtropical portion of the state in a ‘sheet flow’ fashion that began as rain making its way to the Kississimee River, flowing into Lake Okeechobee and overflowing the southern banks to migrate down the state at a two inch per mile slope.  This water percolated into the limestone bedrock and recharged the two subterranean aquifers before draining into the 800 square mile Florida Bay estuary.  During the dry season, peat and other soils in the Everglades would release the water they had absorbed during the rainy season and maintain a delicate balance between flood and drought  (Johnson, 1992).  Humans have altered this unique ecosystem so it is no longer a "River of Grass" but a series of farms, lakes, water retention areas, and burgeoning metropolises that are slowly choking the life of this wetwonderland and threatening the south Florida's most prized possession their economy.



Background and Historical Events

In the 1950s and 1960s over 1500 miles of canals and ditches were dug throughout the great Everglades watershed area, and Lake Okeechobee (a Seminole name meaning “big water”) was drained and diked with 106 miles of 35 foot high dikes and flood control levees to allow for a fresh water source for irrigation and drinking water to the growing population.  The Kissimmee River, a major tributary to the lake, was dug up and channeled and these acts essentially cut off the north half of the Everglades from the south (Williams, 1990) (See Figure 2).

Current farming practices include crops such as the infamous cane sugar industry, second in the nation for winter vegetables, number one citrus producer, rice, wheat, corn, dairy and beef cattle.  All of these sources, as well as urban development contribute to the increased water quality and quantity problems that are facing the Everglades, and subsequently, Florida Bay (Munson, 2005).  A balanced approach is needed to provide lasting solutions to restoring this unique environment that is a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, as well as feasible methods of a functioning economy of South Florida (Johnson, 1992).  

                      Florida is the second wettest state in the union with an annual rainfall that averages near 55 inches per year (Munson, 2005) (See Figure 2) and over seventy five percent of that precipitation falls during the wet season of May to October (Dugger, 1996).  It is home to the largest lake in the continental United States and the only subtropical wetland (Munson, 2005).  In fact, freshwater was so plentiful that, in the Atlantic, ships could stop and fill their water kegs by fresh water springs that bubbled up through the salt water (Williams, 1990).  It would seem in a state with such plentiful amounts of freshwater, there would be no need for water regulations (Munson, 2005). 

However, in 1881, shortly after Florida was granted statehood, four million acres was sold by the state to a business man from Philadelphia for one million dollars.  He then began the channelization of the Caloosahatchee and Upper Kissimmee River basins.  Other companies were given contracts to dredge canals and dykes to create more land for development, and this was mostly sold to farmers after the areas had been drained.  As these types of projects continued, the Everglades Drainage District was created by the state in 1907.  The District oversaw the construction of six major canals that linked (and still do) Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean  (See Figure 4).  In 1913, the General Drainage Act was passed to give landowners more power to drain  (Munson, 2005) (See Figure 5). By 1916, the railroad reached Key West and extensive reclamation began to move southward, beach areas constructed hotels and in 1928  Tamiami Trail crossed the state westward from Miami to Naples creating even more access to lands for drainage.  The 1930s to the 1950s the saw vast forests of cypress cleared as the population grew and the wealthy bought second homes and migrated to South Florida for the winter season  (Johnson, 1992).


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Figure 2.  Rainfall in south Florida (USGS, 2004).

Figure 3.  Historic and Current Flows in the Everglades (Short,   2006).


Figure 4.  Map Overlay of Construction in Everglades (Short,  2006).


Figure 5.  1900s Canal Digging and Drainage, (State of Florida, 2000)

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The Four Eras of the Everglades

                      Era One  

                      The construction and water management practices of the Everglades proceeded though three eras, and currently is in the fourth.  Era one, began the construction of water controls, for the primary purpose of draining land to settle and farm.  In 1903, a major flood occurred and destroyed most of the farms within the Everglades watershed.  This flood was so extensive that the 1905 gubernatorial election was won on the platform of water management.  Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was elected and promised to “drain that abominable, pestilence-ridden swamp.”  As noted earlier, the Everglades Drainage District was created soon after the election, and by 1917 four major canals from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic were complete. 

The years 1926 to 1928 brought a series of major hurricanes that caused extensive flooding and killed 2,500 people.  These events shifted the management practices of water in South Florida from drainage to flood control.  Most of the deaths from the 1928 hurricane were due to the flooding of Lake Okeechobee.  This prompted the state’s creation of Lake Okeechobee Flood Control District in 1929 (Munson, 2005).  The Army Corps of Engineers (further referred to as ACOE) was also authorized by the state in 1930 to undertake flood control measures for the rest of the Everglades (Dugger, 1996).

Era Two

The second era began in the middle of the 1940s with the State Board of Conservation created in 1945.  The Board’s duties included protection of the state’s marine, mineral and water resources.  In 1947, the Water Survey and Research Division was established but, dissolved in 1955 to the Florida Geological Survey.  At this time environmental concerns, especially over water as a resource, were being raised by the public due to fish kills in Lake Apopka and the publication of The Everglades:  River of Grass (1947) (Munson, 2005).  As in the first era, a series of hurricanes struck the state in 1947 and 1948.  These storms were more severe, drowning over 2,000 and 25,000 cattle and leaving agriculture and urban lands alike, inundated for six months.  The rain fall totaled 108 inches that year.  It was obvious that the ACOE flood controls previously established were inadequate and in 1948 the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SF) was created and run by the ACOE.  The C&SF divided up the Everglades into three districts, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), Water Conservation Areas (WCAs), and the Everglades National Park (actually created in 1947).  (See Figure 3 and Figure 6)The ACOE had a motto for these projects, known as the “four D’s:  Dike it, Dam it, Divert it, and Drain it.”  By the end of the 1950s the ACOE was able to control 3.8 billion liters of water a day (Dugger, 1996).

Era Three

Era three is known as the era of “no easy answers.”  Just east of Tampa, two floods in two years, then Hurricane Donna in 1960, inundated more than one million acres and caused $29 million in damages.  The South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) was created in 1961 in response (Munson, 2005).  Then, major droughts throughout the 1960s and 1970s occurred, and in the year of 1970-1971 only thirty inches of rain fell at Miami International Airport.  This extreme lack of precipitation allowed for massive fires to erupt and consume over 300 hectares of land.  (Fire is an integral part of certain ecosystems within the Everglades, and the state as a whole, but this was not conducive to a growing population.)  Because of this, water management became a front runner in political issues, along with the blossoming environmental movement as a whole, at the time (Dugger, 1996).  The Environmental Protection Act came in 1971, allowing Florida citizens to sue the state when environmental laws were not enforced, and in 1972, the Florida Water Resources Act was passed by the legislature to create a state wide water policy to rectify the problems of the disjointed regional management that had been used in the past (Munson, 2005).  This same year Florida passed the Land Conservation Act that authorized state bonds to be issued for purchase of environmentally endangered and recreational lands (ENP, 2000).  Over the decade of the 1970s, Florida acquired 350,000 acres of ‘environmentally sensitive’ lands for the primary reason of protecting adjacent water bodies.

Era Four

                      The fourth, and current, era in focused on creating sustainable solutions and revising many projects that had been implemented prior to the 1980s.  Florida again was visited by a drought in 1981, this time a 200-year event that was shortly followed by hurricane induced flooding.  These repeated extreme weather events cause legislation to finally be passed to begin to remedy the dire situation in South Florida (Dugger, 1996). Water resource legislation included:  1983 Florida Water Quality Assurance Act, 1984 Warren Henderson Wetlands Protection Act, and 1987 Surface Water Improvement and Management Act (SWIM).  In, 1993 the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force was formed, and 1994 saw the passing of Everglades Forever Act (ENP, 2000).  By 1998 the state had acquired over 2.1 million acres for land conservation purposes, which was over 22% of the state’s land (Munson, 2005).  In 1999, Jeb Bush created the Governor’s Commission for the Everglades (ENP, 2000).  The Estuary Restoration Act 2000 was passed into law, with a goal of restoring one million acres of estuarine habitat by 2010 (NOAA, 2004).  And in 2001, Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act (REAL), authorizing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was passed by the Legislature  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005) (See Timeline Overview).

          The Everglades restoration has been deemed a “microcosm of the entire environmental movement.” This is because this is the largest restoration ever undertaken and success of the restoration could provide a positive future for the movement, or if unsuccessful, could lead to further obstacles for the floundering movement.  “The recent attempt to restore this region is typical of the movement from utilitarianism, where natural resources were exploited for their usefulness to the populace, to an era of conservation, where the limits of these resources were recognized, and most recently to attempts at restoration, or the revitalization of the natural environment,”  (Dugger, 1996).  This restoration back to natural land is extremely difficult to achieve, especially in a place as populated as South Florida, but as discussed later, restoration is not the only focus of CERP.

"The Corps now spends 20 percent of its budget on environmental work, a figure likely to increase," (Grunwald, 2006).

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Figure 6.  Map and Breakdown of Areas within Everglades (Dugger, 1996).

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The Everglades Agricultural Area

As illustrated in the history above, the original draining of the Everglades was largely to facilitate farming in the region.  It was thought the land would be good for cotton, tobacco and sugar  (Dugger, 1996). The Everglades Agricultural Area was created in 1948 and is comprised of the upper quarter of the natural wetland, containing some 750,000 acres.  This area makes up forty six percent of the state’s sugar lands and thirty eight percent of the citrus land  (Weisskoff, 2000).  Since the region was originally intending for farming any legislative decisions are weighed with interest as to the impact on the agricultural industry.  The EAA consumes a majority of the surface waters in the Everglades.  During certain times of the year the EAA is the only source of winter vegetables for the country, but the most produced crop is sugar cane.  It occupies over half of the EAA (440,000 acres) and although not suited for the extremely wet environment and high water table of the EAA, sugarcane is largely subsidized by the government so the industry is still turning a large profit (Dugger, 1996).  Besides these subsidies that the sugar industry is pocketing, there are other problems associated with agriculture in the Everglades.  Economically these problems are referred to as externalities, negative externalities in this case.  To begin with, the drainage of the wetlands has caused a water table drop of five feet (Johnson, 1992), which has led to groundwater issues throughout the entire watershed. The lowered water table also has led to soil erosion.  In 1900 there was twelve feet of peat soils above the surface of the bedrock, today more than half of that has eroded and continues to do so at the rate of about one inch per year.  As these delicate peat soils begin to dry, they shrink up and blow away (Kalpulli, 2005).  Some estimate that some portions of the EAA will reach bedrock in the next twenty five years  (Dugger, 1996). 

             Every day, 1.7 billion gallons of water is diverted from flowing through the Everglades by implemented drainage techniques  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005). This water, that should be flowing through the ecosystem to percolate down the limestone bedrock and recharge the Floridan and Biscayne Aquifers, and to flow into the fragile estuary of the Florida Bay is instead siphoned off into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean where it causes damage through large influxes of freshwater to the saline environment  (Helmuth, 1999) . Conversely, Florida Bay’s estuary is deteriorating and 30,000 acres of sea grasses are already dead due to the lack of freshwater (less than one quarter of the natural flow) from the Everglades  (Dugger, 1996; Johnson, 1992).   In fact, seventy percent less water flows through the system today than would occur naturally  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005). The water that is drained and retained, and eventually released to flow through the ecosystem is done so by sporadically dumping large amounts at once, instead of the natural sheet flow that keeps the system healthy (See Figure 7).  These negative externalities brought upon the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay are causing problems in commercial and recreational fishing industries.  The lack of water allowed to slowly recharge the aquifers is putting restraints on the surrounding economy because there is not enough water for the urban, agricultural and environmental needs  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005) (See Figure 3).

Water quality is another negative impact of agriculture in the Everglades.  Lake Okeechobee receives 1.5 tons of phosphorous per day from upstream dairies, not to mention other contaminates of dairy effluent such as nitrogen, heavy metal, hormones and bacteria  (Dugger, 1996). Lake Okeechobee also serves as the drinking water source for over six million people (three times the C&SF intended amount) and a major source of irrigation for the EAA  (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005). Water that does flow through the ecosystem is often carrying ten to twenty times the natural amount of phosphorous and nitrogen to Everglades State Park (Dugger, 1996), which causes the proliferation of non native, nutrient loving plants, such as cattails which now scatter the Everglades landscape  (Kalpulli, 2005).  Between the diverted water and the poor water quality, Florida has over 68 plants and animals on the Endangered Species List, and two thirds of those are found within the Everglades  (Weisskoff, 2005) (See Figure 8).

          While agriculture is detrimental to the environment and the Everglades as a whole, it is a vital part of Florida’s economy.  Agriculture generates $3.8 billion for the state’s economy every year (USGS: Benefits, 2005), but it is obvious that current practices are unsustainable.  Without the environment to provide natural capital for the production of agriculture, the economy will suffer.  The United States Department of Agriculture has offered incentives to conserve land and use Best Management Plans (BMPs) in agriculture.  Private land owners, on a voluntary basis, can conform to the regulations, set by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) such as the BMP for their land, and can qualify for government assistance.  The NRCS has over $3.5 million dollars allotted for this project.  There is also a program specifically for the EAA (750,000 acres), also on a voluntary basis, with assistance coming from a one million dollar budget.  The criteria for this is much more stringent than just a BMP.  There are also an Urban Assistance Program to reduce urban non point pollution runoff, and a Wetland Reserve Program.  Also through the USDA, is the Agricultural Research Service, which has a budget of over eight million dollars to conduct sugarcane breeding experiments and also genetic research for the most sustainable strain of sugar cane to grow in the EAA (i.e. tolerant of high water table, low fertilizer requirement, etc.)  (USDA, 2000).  These incentives have been in place since the mid-1990s, and are somewhat passive-aggressive policy by the federal government.

            Richard Weisskoff, a development and environmental economist, and associate professor at the University of Miami offers some other solutions for the EAA.  His first suggestion is to rotate rice and sugar cane plantings.  Rice is a ‘phosphorous sink’ plant and, if planted every fourth year, would greatly reduce the phosphorous and sediment run off created in the EAA.  A second option he offers is to grow organic rice in the EAA as the primary crop in the 750,000 acre area.  This, he states, “could become the most profitable crop for the EAA.”  With soil erosion decreasing sugar yields year after year and the environmental regulations for phosphorous pollution are tightened during restoration, organic rice could be the new ‘cash crop’ of the EAA.  Rice is ideal for this region because it is a flood tolerant crop that will anchor top soil and also will reduce the need for pumping water off and on to the fields, not to mention a low fertilizer requirement  (USDA, 1997).  And his third suggestion, which would be the least favored by industry and economy, but most favored by environmentalist groups, would be to remove farming from the EAA completely.  This land would then be used for water storage in the form of constructed wetlands and reservoirs.  The last of these options, he does note, would be substantial to the agricultural market and Florida’s economy  (Weisskoff, 2000).  However, this does bring into light some interesting options for the future of Florida’s agriculture industry.
"The Hoover Dike leaks when Lake Okeechobee gets high, and the Corps say it could fail if lake levels rise seven feet above normal, unleashing the monstropolous beast on millions of people.  Hurricane forecasting has improved dramatically since 1928, but it's not perfect, and the unexpected failure of Corps floodwalls during Katrina was a reminder that federal engineering isn't, either,"  (Grunwald, 2006).

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Figure 7.  Freshwater Discharges to Florida Bay  (USGS, DOI, 2004).


Figure 8.  Land Cover Changes in South Florida (Short,  2006).

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Water Scarcity:  Tourism, Urban and Population Growth

            Coastal living is, for many, the American Dream.  Population concentration on coastlines is expected grow to 165 million people by 2015, which is a rate of about 3,600 people per day (See Figure 9).  With this type of continual growth, several ‘things’ should be expected to coincide with it.  These ‘things’ include:  industry, jobs, infrastructure, tax revenues, and economic prosperity.  Conversely, solid waste, effluent, urban non point runoff, loss of wildlife habitat, and increase demand for water and energy should also be expected (NOAA, 2004).  Currently, South Florida, while already densely population, has an influx of ‘snow birds’ (tourists) every year.  Millions of people travel to South Florida, in what locals call tourist season which is generally the months of October to May.  As noted earlier, the wet season is from May to October, so this influx of visitors to the region comes during dry season, when water is already scarce.  However, the millions of people bring over $19 billion with them to spend during this season to enjoy many of Florida’s revenue generating ecosystems (natural capital) (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005).  Over six million people spend over $400 million just visiting the Everglades related parks and preserves.  Over four million people flood the Keys each year for activities such as scuba diving, fishing, boating, and the wildlife.  The commercial fishing industry provides $18 million to the economy annually, and the recreational fishing industry achieves revenues of over $600 million every year (USGS:  Benefits, 2005).

            To add to the matter, South Florida encompasses seven out of the ten fastest growing metropolitans in the country (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005), and the Everglades is sandwiched between the growth on both coasts.  Water has become a scarce resource.  Scarcity is a function of supply and demand, which comes from over usage of resources (NOAA, 2005a),  The over usage of water has created an ever decreasing water table which, among other issues, causes sinkhole across the state (State of Florida, 2000)  (See Figure 10).  Evaluating the cost (for industry) or price (or society) of an environmental resource is sometimes a difficult task.  For industry, the cost of a resource is an internal cost, as a factor of production, and in the case of the Everglades, the price was mostly covered by the government through the ACOE and various other programs, so essentially the taxpayers paid for irrigation and drainage of the area.  This is a low cost to the industry, which produces a high amount of externalities (pollution).  The price to the public is calculated as the utility of the society, or in other words, the willingness to pay for environmental resources.  The utility of society is essentially the satisfaction of the individuals within that society.  The society of South Florida seems willing to pay for water as a resource because water restrictions imposed on them during dry spells has caused them to demand change (politically) for more water for society, (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005).  Water is essential to the economy of the state of Florida.  To look at each industry, it is simple:  farmers need water for healthy crops and livestock, the commercial and recreational fishing industries need healthy estuaries to provide habitats for breeding healthy fish, tourism needs water for tourist attractions such as wildlife habitats, and ecosystem health, and residents need water for basic life functions such as drinking, bathing, and cooking, (Baker, 2001)  It is obvious that solutions are needed to keep both south Florida and the Everglades alive.

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Figure 9.  Coastal Living Long Term Data (NOAA, 2004).


Figure 10.  Sinkhole Example (State of Florida, 2000)

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          The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was passed in 2001’s REAL Act (Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act).  The CERP is also known as the Restudy and is a joint project between the ACOE and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).  The CERP states this effort is “designed to restore, preserve and protect the world famous South Florida ecosystem and meet other key water resource needs of the region.”  The project is expected to take 30 years to complete, and over 50 years of operating and maintenance is expected.  The cost in 2001 was estimated at $8.2 billion and will be shared between the State of Florida and the Federal government, fifty – fifty (U.S. Army Corps, 2001) , but today it is almost $11 billion (Grunwald, 2006).

            There are over sixty projects included with the plan.  Some of these include:  primary drainage system, and creation of water quality treatment facilities. CERP is designed to "expand the water pie" by constructing eighteen above ground reservoirs covering 180,000 acres (about the size of New York City), including 60,000 acres in the EAA.  There will be two belowground reservoirs that are converted limestone quarries in the east (which it is unsure if they will hold water in the first place and there will be a first ever subterranean  barrier to protect Miami's drinking water from bacteria),  as well as 330 aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells that would inject water into aquifers below the surface to be recovered later (Grunwald, 2006).  The economic benefits expected are:  increased availability of freshwater, reduced flood damages, new provision of recreational and navigational opportunities, and to protect cultural and archeological resources and values. 

To see a PowerPoint presentation on ASR,

New cost-benefit analysis reports are expected no less than every five years for the duration of the CERP (U.S. Army Corps, 2001).  In the CERP, there is a large allocation of monetary funds to acquire land for restoration.  Congress has already begun to buy up land surrounding Lake Okeechobee for the purpose of constructing wetlands to the south and east of the EAA for natural filtration of phosphorous and nitrogen, in efforts to meet the 10ppb limit that has been set for the area  (Dugger, 1996).  In fact, Congress spent $800 million buying and constructing these wetlands, and it is the largest of its kind in the world (Helmuth, 1999).  Unfortunately, much of this land is still being farmed by the sugar industry in 2006 (Grunwald, 2006).  Other environmental buyouts have been occurring as well.  In 2002, the Bush Administration paid $235 million to the Collier family, along with Chevron, Conoco, and the Murphy Exploration and Production Company to get the oil and gas rights back to areas in the Everglades including: Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (Fields,2004).  (Big Cypress Preserve was sold by the Collier Family to the federal government, but the Colliers still maintain the rights to drill for oil (Grunwald, 2006).)  These areas, along with a section off the Panhandle (totaling 765,000 acres) are now protected from drilling or spills that may be associated with drilling (Fields, 2004).

 It happens in many places, environmentalists, as well as governments, Native American tribes, among others, are buying up lands or mineral rights to lands to end or prevent environmental damage to the area.  This is troubling to some because of the potential market that it creates.  Essentially it is creating demand for future buy outs and prospectors could be searching for lands and with the threat of development could fetch them a very high price.  It also encourages these investors to “scout out those kinds of opportunities, invest in problematic projects, and pursue environmentally destructive ideas in order to put themselves in the position where they can demand compensation,”  (Fields, 2004).

            As mentioned earlier, aquifer storage and recovery is planned for CERP.  It involves drilling hundreds of passages into the Floridan aquifer, one thousand feet below the surface, and use it as a reservoir to pump and store freshwater during the wet season, and pump it back up during the dry (Helmuth, 1999).  This ASR project  will be the largest and most complex of its kind ever undertaken.  If it is successful, these projects will bring over a trillion gallons of water to the "water pie," (Grunwald, 2006).  The Floridan aquifer is full of brine, and, in theory, the freshwater should float on top of this ‘native brine’ and be recoverable for use when water is scare on the surface.  This sounds expensive, and it is, but with the real estate market sky rocketing in south Florida and the population expected to double in less than forty years, underground storage may end up more cost effective than anything planned above ground (Helmuth, 1999).

            When considering the history of the Everglades, growth and farming in south Florida and the management practices that these entailed, one thing is universal: economic growth.  The most influential factor in draining, channeling, and populating the Everglades was economic growth and considerations.  The driving factors behind land development of the major boarders of the Everglades (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, etc.) was the economy.  Farming, (sugar namely), ranching, and the tourism industry was all connected to the growing population and economy of South Florida.  So it is not hard to believe that the decision to restore the Everglades was largely based on economic needs (Baker, 2001).  “The economy and the environment are inextricably linked,” (NOAA, 2005a).  Because of this there are limitations placed on economic growth through natural capital (NOAA, 2005c). 


"'We are permitting in SW Florida as fast as we can the same types of development and associated environmental degradation we are spending billions of dollars trying to fix on the SE coast,' the EPA's south Florida director e-mailed the top Army Corps regulator in Florida.  'Haven't we learned our lessons?  Apparently not!'"  (Grunwald, 2006).

            Taxpayers pay the brunt of the costs of industry and restoration.  Yes, in the CERP, the federal and state governments are splitting the cost, but those funds are coming from tax dollars.  Even the sugar industry is being forced to pay four percent of the costs, or $320 million, through the Everglades Forever Act.  The EFA states that the polluter must pay, but the sugar industry in the EAA created much more than four percent of the problem.  So tax payers are paying the rest, and essentially they are also paying for the pollution, or negative externalities, through the government subsidies of the sugar industry – which has been renewed through 2008 (Kalpulli, 2005).  And the sugar industry continues to degrade the environment at a rate of three to five acres a day (Northeast Midwest Institute, 2005), and cattails are still overtaking the Everglades at two acres per day (Grunwald, 2006).  Even in the environmental buy outs, tax payers are losing.  If the land is not regulated (what tax dollars are for – politicians who regulate on behalf of constituents) and is bought instead, it is no longer available for taxing (if a non profit buys it).  If the government buys it, it is with tax dollars, if the land is donated the donor gets a tax break, if a conservation easement is placed on the land or it is sold below market value, there are tax breaks for that as well (Fields, 2004).  It is not necessarily wrong for the tax payers to fund some or much of this restoration – it shows a willingness to pay and therefore puts a value on natural resources (NOAA, 2005b).  However, the sugar industry’s subsidies do not factor into this equation, nor does their not being held accountable for their part of the pollution.  But if they were held accountable for the amount of pollution they produced, they would probably go bankrupt and have to be given government loans and grants to start anew.  Currently the sugar industry is being hit hard by the low carb and sugar diets that have taken the nation by storm.  The soil is still shrinking and land prices are still increasing exponentially.  They have warned in the past:  “…when it is no longer profitable to grow sugar in the Everglades, they will grow condos instead.”  In coming years, environmentalists will have to give up their daydreaming of converting the EAA into reservoirs and flow ways to reconnect the fragmented ecosystem and make prevention of development of this land a top priority (Grunwald, 2006).

            Restoring the Everglades was also an economic decision.  The current practices are failing us.  The economy works this way:  a market fails due to over abundance of negative externalities, then non market legislation is passed to rectify the situation, with costs imposed to society, and the cycle begins again (NOAA, 2005a).  Not only have the past management practices been detrimental to the environment, but also they are unable to accommodate the continued growth of population and economy in the region.  If there is no change, the ecosystem degrades, as will the economy of south Florida (USGS: Benefits, 2005).  A computer model was run for the Everglades, for the last one hundred years.  This model represented what the landscape would look like with no development at all, if it was all natural.  The entire region was wild and uninhabitable except for a small potion of the east coast.  Obviously this restoration is not going to be a complete removal of water management controls – it would not be feasible (Dugger, 1996).  The term ‘restoration’ is not entirely accurate for this project either.  It is better termed ‘repair’ because there is improvement, but it can and will never be restored (NOAA. 2005c).  The CERP is a creation of a ‘new’ Everglades, one that will be able to support south Florida’s economic growth. 

            The CERP presents itself as the social optimum.  It will provide for drinking water, irrigation water and various other amenities that are needed to provide for the people and the economy.  However, Richard Weisskoff suggests there are several missing pieces in this plan.  First, he states, “the Restudy fails to recognize ongoing growth and dynamic impacts of major changes in the water system,” that could very possibly promote more growth with this added resource.  The Everglades National Park is expecting a doubling of visitors per year, after the Restudy is complete but is still maintaining the same fixed cost per visitor.  Another problem he discusses is the fact that the entire area of the Restudy is being treated like one ecosystem.  Weisskoff suggests dividing the area into “several regional economies that correspond to the four major watersheds within the greater Everglades area.”  Since the CERP is not planning for the expected growth of the region and the possible increased rate of that growth due to restoration, Weisskoff is concerned with the current state and federal policies that “promote urban sprawl and agricultural expansion” through tax exemptions, low utility rates and the 47th lowest tax rate in the nation.  “In the absence of extremely aggressive policies of conservation, the present trend is to encourage greater resource use in the urban areas.”  He stresses the need for ‘smart’ consumption “designed and imposed by the tax payers within the region, as the broad population comes to recognize the true social cost of living within a fragile ecosystem.”  Finally he notes that the opening of Cuba’s borders would take tremendous pressure of the EAA and the sugar industry due to the very successful sugarcane lands there, because the eroding peat soils of the Everglades can only produce crops for so long (Weisskoff, 2000).  Eventually the crops will fail and eventually bedrock will be exposed.

            The Everglades is a common resource – defined as: one person’s use of the resources reduces the benefits that accrue to the other users.  This concept is further understood with the incredible amount and complex reasons for the negative externalities that come from the agricultural industry and urban development of the Everglades.  The natural environment is designed to recycle wastes through its ecosystem, but when used as a factor of production by either of the above mentioned culprits, the waste stream eventually becomes too large to be absorbed by the environment.  But without the environment, no industry or development could exist.  This is the closed, circular flow relationship of the environment and the economy.  (NOAA, 2005a).

            The Sustainability Criterion is hidden among all of the information surrounding the Everglades restoration.  Yes, the economy is a driving force behind the project, but there is also a need to leave the next generation no worse off than we are currently.  There is a vanishing sense of place in south Florida.  (Grunwald, 2006)  There is no guarantee that this will occur, and not one single project has been completed – not even pilots of the projects to be undertaken by CERP.  The market works with the consumer and the producer always having goals in conflict with each other (NOAA, 2005a).  The key is to accomplish the sustainability of this conflict.  “Sustainability within ecosystems is necessary in supporting sustainable economies.”  Ecosystem restoration is a way to ‘invest in the sustainability’ of the services provided by natural capital.  The ability to produce ‘goods’ from the Everglades is the desired result of this restoration (NOAA, 2005b).  The Everglades are one of the most highly controlled and regulated wetlands in the world (Dugger, 1996).  "CERP did not exactly aim to 'restore' the Everglades; that would have required the relocation of several million people west of I-95.  But the plan did aim to improve 2.4 million acres of wetlands - not in the old sense of improving them for human use, but improving their ecological health."  This new Everglades will be even more tightly controlled and managed - no where near natural.  This new Everglades will be on life support forever, but it will be better than it is now (Grunwald, 2006).  It is a natural wonder that is no longer natural, and this restoration will hopefully bring about a sustainable way to equally coexist the Everglades and the Economy that has so long stripped the ecosystem of its vitality.

CERP is design to feed south Florida’s growth addiction, not to cure it.  The project aims to supply enough water to help the region double its population, which will increase the demands on aquifers and wetlands that prompted the project in the first place.  In fact, one little-noticed CERP provision will launch a $12 million study of a future CERP-style restoration project for southwest Florida.  So while public officials are spending billions to repair the damage of past development in southeast Florida, they are already preparing to spend billions more to mitigate future development on the other side of the peninsula.  They know they are in a hole, but they seem intent to keep digging,”  (Grunwald, 2006).

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Abbreviations and Acronyms

ACOE: Army Corps of Engineers

ASR:  Aquifer Storage and Recovery

BMP:  Best Management Practice

CERP:  Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project

C&SF:  Central and Southern Florida Project (for Flood Control)

EAA:  Everglades Agricultural Area

EFA:  Everglades Forever Act

ENP:  Everglades National Park

NRCS:  Natural Resource Conservation Service

REAL:  Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act

SWFWMD:  Southwest Florida Water Management District

USDA:  United States Department of Agriculture

WCA:  Water Conservation Areas

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 The Bush Position

Both the Bush brothers claim to be in full support of CERP and Everglades restoration.  However, their actions speak much louder than their political platforms.  Governor Bush's former business partner built one of two developments since CERP passed, outside the "urban service boundary" of Miami-Dade County.  The Sierra Club has publicly withdrawn its support of the plan.  The links below illustrate both the Bush's claim of support and evidence that neither are working toward foreseeable action toward CERP.


"The Fish and Wildlife Service recently admitted that the science it has used to rubber-stamp thousands of homes in panther habitat was flawed.  An environmental impact study of the region's growth has languished in the bowels of the Army Corps bureaucracy for almost a decade.  And the EPA's top regulator in southwest Florida quit after President Bush's appointees began pushing a developer-funded study claiming that natural wetlands caused pollution,"  (Grunwald, 2006)


For:  EFA site, White House1, White House 2, Acceler8

Against:  Naples Daily News, Sierra Club, St. Petersburg Times, The Economist, Common Dreams


Governor Bush made it clear he doesn't care what the environmentalists think. 'We don't need their permission to save the Everglades,'"  (Grunwald, 2006)


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"The Everglades is a test. . .if we pass, we may get to keep the planet,"  (Grunwald, 2006)




Get Involved!

Five years have passed since CERP was authorized and not a single project outlined in the plan has been completed.  The 1994 Everglades Forever Act called for a 10ppb phosphorous limit for runoff into the Everglades be met by 2003.  Fearing lawsuits for not meeting the limits, Big Sugar sent 46 lobbyists to Tallahassee to amend the EFA.  Big Sugar called for the deadline to be extended until 2026 and the limit be increased to 15ppb.  The (Jeb) Bush administration compromised at a deadline of 2016 with the limit remaining at 10ppb (Grunwald, 2006).


"...key congressmen in both parties warned that the so-called Everglades Whenever Act would reinforce perceptions that Big Sugar controlled Florida, jeopardizing federal funding for the Everglades.  Officials at Justice, Interior, and EPA were also appalled, but none said so publicly, becuase the president was Governor Bush's brother, and the White House had ordered federal agencies to defer tot he state on Everglades issues," (Grunwald, 2006). 

 This amendment allows for continued pollution that only slows the dying process of the ecosystem.  Write to Florida legislators to demand action in saving the planet's most unique and famous wetland.

Just copy and paste the addresses from below and fill in your personal information in the letter template.

Governor Jeb Bush
PL 05 The Capitol
400 Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
Washington, D.C.
United States Senate
716 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez
United States Senate
Hart 317 Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart
313 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

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Baker.  2001.  “Ecological, Economic Issues.”  Retrieved on 2 Nov 2005.

Butcher, Clyde.  2006.  Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Open Edition.  Retrieved on 1 March 2006 from

Dugger, Aubrey.  1996.  “The South Florida Everglades Restoration Project.”  Retrieved on 31 Oct 2005 from

Everglades National Park.  2002.  Retrieved on 24 February 2006 from

Everglades National Park (ENP).  2000.   “Restoration Efforts:  Evolution of Ecosystem Restoration Efforts.”  Retrieved on 2 November 2005 from

Fields, Scott.  May 2004.  “Environmental buy-outs: protection at a price – Spheres of Influence.”  Environmental Health Perspectives.  Retrieved on 01 Oct 2005 from

Grunwald, Michael.  2006.  "The Swamp:  Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise."  Simon and Schuster, New York, New York. 

Helmuth, Laura.  1999.  Science News.  "Can this Swamp be Saved? – The Florida Everglades." 16 October 2005 from

Johnson, Randy.  1992.   American Forests.  “New life for the “River of Grass.” – the Everglades, Florida – Watershed Wars.”   Retrieved on 2 Oct 2005 from

Kapulli.  2005.  "Corporate Welfare Policies and Big Sugar Sour the Everglades."  9 November 2005 from

Munson, Adam B. 2005. Journal of the American Water Resources Association.  “Determining Minimum Flows and Levels:  The Florida Experience.”  Retrieved on 10 Oct 2005 from

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  2004.  “Coastal Ecosystem Restoration.”  Retrieved on 4 November 2005 from

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  2005a. “Environmental Economics.”  Retrieved on 4 Nov. 2005.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  2005b.  “Environmental Valuation.”  4 Nov. 2005.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  2005c.  “Irreversibility, Sustainability, and Safe Minimum Standard.”  4 Nov. 2005.

Northeast Midwest Institute.  2005.  “Large-scale Ecosystem Restoration Initiatives: Protecting and Restoring the South Florida Everglades.”   Retrieved on 02 Oct 2005 from

State of Florida.  2000.  "A Timeline of Water Management in Florida."  St. John's River Water Management District.  Retrieved on 2 May 2006 from

Short, Nicholas M.  2006.  Retrieved on 1 March 2006 from

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District; South Florida Water Management District.  2001.  “Environmental and Economical Equity Program Management Plan:  Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.”   20 Oct 2005.

United States Department of Agriculture.  1997.  "Restoring the Everglades:  Challenges for Agriculture."  Agricultural Outlook.  Retrieved on 02 October 2005. 

United States Department of Agriculture.  2000.  "USDA Budget Matrix for Fiscal Years 1993 – 1999."  Retrieved on 30 October 2005 from

United States Geological Survey.  2005.  "The Benefits:  Comprehensive Plan Provides for Ecosystem Restoration and Supports a Sustainable South Florida."  Retrieved on 9 November 2005 from

United States Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.  2004.  "South Florida Information Access:  Magnitude and Distribution Flows into Northeastern Florida Bay."  Retrieved on 8 March 2006 from

United States Geological Survey.  2004.  "Trends in Rainfall, Water Levels and Flows."  Retrieved on 4 May 2006 from

Weisskoff, Richard.  2000.  Economic Research Systems.  "Missing Pieces in Ecosystem Restoration:  The Case of the Florida Everglades."  12, No. 3.  Retrieved on 4 November 2005 from

Williams, Randy.  1990.  Whole Earth Review.  “Turning back the clock in the Florida Everglades – Special Issue: Environmental Restoration.”  Retrieved on 03 Oct 2005 from