Florida’s economy runs on clean water, and the health of our water – which is sourced from the Everglades – directly benefits everyone in South Florida, including every Homestead resident.
Protecting the drinking water supply for 9 million Floridians depends on restoring the historic freshwater flow into the Everglades, which directly supports the recreation, tourism, real estate and other sectors that define Florida’s $1 trillion economy.
The answer to reversing the threats facing the Everglades due to manmade water diversions and subsequent environmental damage back in the 1940s lies in Everglades restoration.
What is Everglades restoration?
In 2000, The Everglades Foundation, together with committed partners, helped drive Congressional authorization of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a 50-50- cost-shared program between the state and federal governments, with 68 projects designed to store, clean, and send water south, to provide America’s Everglades with the water it needs to flourish, while protecting our coastal estuaries from outbreaks of toxic algae.
CERP represents the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project in history, with correspondingly complex funding and implementation. The success of the project depends on both the federal and state governments meeting their funding obligations, but those obligations have not always been met, thereby delaying completion of the plan.
Environmental and economic progress is happening
Over the past 10 years, substantial progress has been made. Several large-scale projects recently were completed, including restoration of the Kissimmee River, which is now meandering across the upper Everglades as nature intended, the fishery is returning, and the wading birds are coming back. This project alone impacts the water supply of 16 Florida counties, including Miami-Dade.
Similarly, completion of the revolutionary Tamiami Trail Bridge Project involved the removal of nearly six miles of roadbed to replenish Homestead’s neighboring Everglades National Park with clean freshwater. Removing the roadbed opens the ability to send 220 billion gallons south to the Northeast Shark River Slough, which is not only good news for the Everglades, but for the coastal estuaries, too, as sending more water south helps reduce harmful algae-causing discharges.
The completion of such significant restoration projects vividly illustrates that Everglades restoration works, is worth the investment, and supports the crucial need for federal and state funding to complete the plan.
Restoring America’s Everglades is not just an environmental objective.
Modernizing the outdated water infrastructure has economic and public safety impacts, too. A healthy Everglades is critical to South Florida’s existence, not to mention its growth, as it provides the drinking water to residents and visitors.
Florida runs on clean water, and the health of our water infrastructure directly benefits the billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs tied to outdoor recreation, tourism, real estate, and other sectors that define our economy and quality of life.
Tourism contributes $85.9 billion and supports 1.5 million jobs; real estate accounts for $227.3 billion – nearly 22 percent of Florida’s GDP – and recreational boating and fishing contribute more than $23 billion and support 130,000 jobs.
Everglades restoration protects those industries and is worth the investment. In fact, for every $1 invested in Everglades restoration, we realize a $4 return to Florida’s economy in real estate, water supply, and water-based tourism and recreation.
Building momentum in Everglades restoration Continued progress in Everglades restoration is essential. It will not only benefit the habitats and species of the unique ecosystem, but also help fight climate change, protect our clean water economy, and safeguard the freshwater we rely on in Homestead every day.
Everglades restoration does not require making a choice between the Everglades and the needs of agriculture and flood control. CERP makes future tradeoffs unnecessary. Revival of the historic southerly water flow and necessary seepage control measures will address the needs of all, while ensuring an ample freshwater supply for our vibrant, growing community.
That’s why The Everglades Foundation is steadfastly focused on restoring and protecting America’s Everglades through Science, Advocacy & Education. Follow The Everglades Foundation on social media:
Facebook.com/EvergladesFoundation or @EvergFoundation on Twitter.
Your voice can make a very real difference in the future of the beloved Everglades that is so vitally important to all of us.
This is the second in a three-part series of articles from The Everglades Foundation highlighting the importance of Everglades restoration and its direct benefits to our community, our state, and the 9 million Floridians who rely on the Everglades for their freshwater supply. To learn more about the vital work of The Everglades Foundation, visit EvergladesFoundation.org.