RESTORING THE EVERGLADES
The Fifth Biennial Review - 2014
Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress
Water Science and Technology Board
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
Support for this study was provided by the Department of the Army under Cooperative Agreement No. W912EP-04-2-0001. Support for this project was also provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the South Florida Water Management District. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-30576-1
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-30576-4
Cover credit: Cover image courtesy of David J. Policansky.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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COMMITTEE ON INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF EVERGLADES RESTORATION PROGRESS1
JEFFREY R. WALTERS, Chair, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
MARY JANE ANGELO, University of Florida, Gainesville
DAVID B. ASHLEY, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
LORETTA L. BATTAGLIA, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
WILLIAM G. BOGGESS, Oregon State University, Corvallis
CHARLES T. DRISCOLL, Syracuse University, New York
PAUL H. GLASER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia
STEPHEN G. MONISMITH, Stanford University, Stanford, California
DAVID H. MOREAU, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
K. RAMESH REDDY, University of Florida, Gainesville
HELEN REGAN, University of California, Riverside
JAMES E. SAIERS, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
DANIEL SIMBERLOFF, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
STEPHANIE E. JOHNSON, Study Director, Water Science and Technology Board
DAVID J. POLICANSKY, Scholar, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
MICHAEL J. STOEVER, Research Associate, Water Science and Technology Board
SARAH E. BRENNAN, Program Assistant, Water Science and Technology Board
1The activities of this committee were overseen and supported by the National Research Council’s Water Science and Technology Board and Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (see Appendix C for listing). Biographical information on committee members and staff is contained in Appendix D.
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Many individuals assisted the committee and the National Research Council staff in their task to create this report. We would like to express our appreciation to the following people who have provided presentations to the committee and served as guides during the field trips:
Nick Aumen, U.S. Geological Survey
Ernie Barnett, South Florida Water Management District
Drew Bartlett, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Terrie Bates, South Florida Water Management District
Laura Brandt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Eric Bush, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Eric Cline, South Florida Water Management District
Allen Dray, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Jenny Eckles-Ketterlin, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
James Erskine, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians
Shannon Estenoz, U.S. Department of the Interior
Rory Feeney, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians
Jeremiah Foley, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Manley Fuller III, Florida Wildlife Federation
Rebekah Gibble, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Howie Gonzales, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Susan Gray, South Florida Water Management District
David Hobbie, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Don Jodrey, U.S. Department of the Interior
Bob Johnson, U.S. National Park Service
Dan Kimball, U.S. National Park Service
Steve Kopecky, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Ellen Lake, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Glenn Landers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jon Lane, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
François Laroche, South Florida Water Management District
Tom MacVicar, MacVicar Consulting
Cherise Maples, Seminole Tribe of Indians
Susan Markley, Miami Dade County
Ernie Marks, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Melissa Martin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Christen Mason, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Frank Mazzotti, University of Florida
Agnes McLean, U.S. National Park Service
Melissa Meeker, South Florida Water Management District (formerly)
Gail Mitchell, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Temperince Morgan, South Florida Water Management District
Matt Morrison, South Florida Water Management District
Melissa Nasuti, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jayantha Obeysekera, South Florida Water Management District
Bob Pace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Tony Pernas, Everglades National Park
Ellen Pokorny, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Paul Pratt, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Bob Progulske, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Gina Ralph, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
LeRoy Rodgers, South Florida Water Management District
David Rudnick, U.S. National Park Service
Larry Schwartz, South Florida Water Management District
Mark Shafer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Lauren Sher, Office of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
Dawn Shirreffs, Everglades Coalition
Fred Sklar, South Florida Water Management District
Melissa Smith, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Eric Summa, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Kim Taplin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Tom Teets, South Florida Water Management District
Philip Tipping, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Tom Van Lent, Everglades Foundation
Robert Verrastro, South Florida Water Management District
Greg Wheeler, U.S. Department of Agriculture
David Wegner, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Walter Wilcox, South Florida Water Management District
Kevin Wittmann, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
To much of the public, the Everglades is Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s River of Grass—an immense, unique marsh teeming with life, represented and protected in the form of Everglades National Park. As usual, reality is less rosy, and more complicated and interesting, than the ideal. The South Florida ecosystem is vast, stretching more than 200 miles from Orlando to Florida Bay, and Everglades National Park is but a part located at the southern end. It is a diverse and distinctive ecosystem that includes not only marshes, but also the meandering Kissimmee River and associated floodplain and chain of small lakes, the much larger Lake Okeechobee, sawgrass plains, ridge-and-slough wetlands, tree islands, marl prairies, bays, and estuaries. During the 19th and 20th centuries the ecosystem changed as the nation changed. The historical Everglades has been reduced to half of its original size, and what remains is not the pristine ecosystem many imagine it to be, but one that has been highly engineered and otherwise heavily influenced, and is intensely managed by humans. Today the Everglades is not only an iconic natural system, but also the source of water for industry and the millions of residents of South Florida. To address the floods that have occasionally devastated the region, water now moves through a maze of canals, levees, pump stations, and hydraulic control structures, rather than slowly flowing southward in a broad river of grass, and a substantial fraction is diverted from the natural system (see NRC, 2010). The water that remains is polluted by phosphorus and other contaminants originating from agriculture and other human activities. Many components of the natural system are highly degraded, and continue to degrade (see NRC, 2012a).
Recognizing the degradation of the South Florida ecosystem, and the dependence of humans upon a functioning ecosystem, in 1999 the State of Florida and the federal government agreed to a multidecadal, multi-billion-dollar Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to protect and restore the remaining Everglades while addressing demands for water supply and flood control. In authorizing the CERP, the U.S. Congress mandated periodic independent reviews
of progress toward restoration of the Everglades natural system. The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress, or CISRERP, was formed for this purpose in 2004. This report, which is the fifth in a series of biennial evaluations that are expected to continue for the duration of the CERP, reflects the concerted efforts of 14 committee members and 4 NRC staff representing a wide range of scientific and engineering expertise. Our committee met five times over a period of 16 months including three times in Florida and once in Washington, D.C. We reviewed a large volume of written material and heard oral presentations from state, federal, and tribal government personnel, academic researchers, interest groups, and members of the public.
The CERP is a complex, multi-billion-dollar project managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) that was projected to require 40 years for completion. With 68 separate project components requiring sophisticated scientific knowledge of the ecosystem and creation of new technologies for water management, the CERP represents a research, planning, implementation, and construction challenge unlike any other. At this writing, the CERP is nearly halfway through its second decade, and in that time the ecosystem has continued to change as the nation and indeed the planet changes. This report presents the committee’s consensus view of restoration accomplishments and emerging challenges primarily during the past 2 years but also over the 14 years since the CERP was authorized. In discussing accomplishments, we focus on the progress made on the ground on several CERP projects and supporting non-CERP projects that are producing the first increments of restoration and learning progress to improve the restoration plan through pilot projects and adaptive management. The emerging challenges on which we focus are those posed by the ways in which the ecosystem is changing. The Central Everglades Planning Project is an exciting accomplishment that provides the means to accelerate the pace of restoration in the central Everglades and thus address the ongoing degradation of that part of the ecosystem that was a focus of our last report (NRC, 2012a). However, this critical project can only fulfill its potential if implemented in a timely way and to do so will require finding creative solutions to overcome current constraints related to authorization, funding, and water quality permitting. Climate change and sea-level rise pose enormous challenges to a rainfall-driven system characterized by a low elevational gradient, challenges that could perhaps be set aside for later consideration in 1999, but not in 2014. Rather than compromising restoration, climate change and sea-level rise provide even more incentive for restoring the Everglades ecosystem. Indeed, in this context the CERP can be viewed as a water sustainability plan for both the natural and human environments. Finally, South Florida is now home to a plethora of species that were not present in the pre-
drainage ecosystem of the 19th century, and more are arriving every year. These nonnative invasive species pose another important challenge to restoration.
It has been my privilege to serve on this committee with some of the nation’s leading experts in biological, hydrologic, and geographic sciences, hydrologic and systems engineering, project administration, law, and policy. I greatly appreciate the time, attention, and thought each committee member invested in understanding the complexity of the Everglades ecosystem and corresponding scope of the CERP. I also appreciate their careful, rigorous analyses, expert judgment, constructive comments and reviews, and the professionalism, collegiality, and good humor with which they conducted their business.
The committee is indebted to many individuals for their contributions of information and resources. Specifically, we appreciate the efforts of the committee’s technical liaisons—David Tipple (USACE), Glenn Landers (USACE), Larry Gerry (SFWMD), and Robert Johnson (Department of the Interior)—who responded to numerous information requests and helped the committee utilize the vast resources of agency expertise when needed. Many others educated the committee on the complexities of Everglades restoration through their presentations, field trips, and public comments (see Acknowledgments).
The committee had the good fortune to be assisted by four dedicated and talented NRC staff: Stephanie Johnson, David Policansky, Michael Stoever, and Sarah Brennan. Stephanie Johnson has served as senior project officer for all five CISRERP panels and is a true Everglades expert. Her encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of the science, engineering, and administrative aspects of the CERP, ability to identify and synthesize the complex interrelationships among these aspects, deft management skills, and contacts were critical to the committee’s success. NRC scholar David Policansky is also a veteran of all five CISRERP panels and his experience, knowledge, understanding, sage observations, and illuminating questions were instrumental to the committee’s deliberations and understanding of the Everglades ecosystem and the CERP. Michael Stoever attended to the complex logistical needs of the committee, provided superb support during and between meetings, and, with assistance from Sarah Brennan, was instrumental in producing the final report. I know I speak for the entire committee in expressing our profound respect and appreciation for the NRC staff’s exceptional support and good humor.
This report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their breadth of perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with the procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review was to provide candid and critical comments to assist the institution in ensuring that its published report is scientifically credible and that it meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The reviewer comments and draft manuscript
remain confidential to protect the deliberative process. We thank the following reviewers for their helpful suggestions, all of which were considered and many of which were wholly or partly incorporated in the final report: G. Ronnie Best, U.S. Geological Survey (retired); John R. White, Louisiana State University; M. Siobhan Fennessy, Kenyon College; Evelyn Gaiser, Florida International University; Julie Lockwood, Rutgers University; John C. Volin, University of Connecticut; Wendy Graham, University of Florida; Ben Kirtman, University of Miami; and W. Allen Marr, Jr., Geocomp Corporation.
Although these reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions and recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Kenneth W. Potter, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Bonnie McCay, Rutgers University. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments received full consideration. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the NRC.
The CERP is a bold, challenging, and complex plan with great potential to provide benefits to the ecosystem and the public, and the small increments of restoration that have been achieved suggest that that potential can be realized. But the time has come for equally bold action in implementing the CERP. Delays in implementation make project costs higher, and the ecosystem degradation that must be addressed larger. The challenges to implementation that exist can be overcome, and in the case of climate change, make implementation more urgent. We offer this report in support of that endeavor.
Jeffrey R. Walters, Chair
Committee on Independent Scientific Review
of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP)