Everglades National Park staff and Project Management personnel were on-hand Tuesday March 7, 2023 at the William F. Dickinson Community Center in Homestead to provide information about a Water and Wastewater Systems Rehabilitation Project.
The beauty and uniqueness of the Everglades draws approximately 1 million visitors annually from across the country and around the world.
Although nature on display is the attraction, basic infrastructure is the behind-the-scenes necessity. A February news release described the purpose of the meeting and timeframe for public input.
“The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking public input on a project to rehabilitate select water and wastewater systems within Everglades National Park (EVER). The proposed project
focuses on improving and/or replacing multiple potable water treatment and distribution systems and wastewater collection and treatment systems at key areas throughout the park.
The NPS will be hosting public meetings and inviting public comment on this project from Feb. 13 to March 20.”
“These improvements to the park’s water and wastewater systems are crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of park visitors and concessioners, while protecting the unique ecosystems of the park,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks. “Without these improvements, the next hurricane event could significantly diminish the infrastructure for these systems.”
The improvements will upgrade and protect the current infrastructure, not expand it. The press release explained the areas and the need for action. “The affected areas include: two sites in the Shark Valley area, three sites in the Loop Road area, six sites in the Main Entrance/Royal Palm area and four sites in the Flamingo area. The current infrastructure is outdated and in need of repair and upgrade. The existing systems are critically deficient and expensive to maintain. Many are only partially operable or at the end of their service life.
Additionally, infrastructure located near the ocean can corrode or deteriorate due to saltwater, high UV index and high temperatures.”
Adrian Valdes, a civil engineer with Everglades National Park, told the News Leader, “The main purpose of this project is to address a lot of the deficiencies in our water and waste water systems throughout the Park. Most of our systems were built back in the 50’s and 60’s. Even with repairs over time, it has left a lot of our systems outdated and reaching the end of their life cycle and increasingly expensive to maintain.” He continued, “What we are looking at doing is replacing the water treatment systems and our water distribution systems, as well as our wastewater treatment systems throughout the Park.” He concluded, “It will improve the visitor experience by giving us more reliable infrastructure for our rest rooms, comfort stations, and drinking water throughout the Park.”
In a question reference available funding for the project, Deputy Park Superintendent Sabrina Diaz provided good news. ”Right now, we have 37 million dollars funded through the Great America Outdoor Act. So that’s really exciting.”
An online version of the meeting was held March 8th and was recorded to be posted to the website for public access. More detailed information can be seen at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/WaterSystems. This is the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) site where public comments can be submitted from now through March 20, 2023.
Of further note from the press release, “As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental assessment (EA) will be performed prior to the final design to evaluate the likely environmental consequences resulting from a proposed action. The EA is expected to be released in Fall 2023.”
The Media contact is Allyson Gantt, 786-610-8023; and the Project Information contact is Daniel Noon, 305-242-7717.
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