After eight years of bickering, the state and federal governments have finally shaken hands on how to split the massive bill to restore the Everglades.
The dispute was more than a mere bureaucratic snit. It shut the spigot on something the struggling River of Grass needs almost as much as water: federal funds to start building stalled projects.
The agreement, confirmed in letters the South Florida Water Management District received Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means nearly a half-billion dollars pledged by the Obama administration over the next two years can begin to flow — starting with a $41 million shot to begin turning a failed Southwest Florida subdivision back into wetlands.
It also should ease friction between the district and the Corps of Engineers, two agencies charged with managing and splitting the cost of replumbing the Everglades, an ambitious but so-far sluggish undertaking now projected to run at least $22.5 billion.
Both sides called "the master agreement" — a contract spelling out how each side will calculate costs and share duties in dozens of projects — crucial to finally turning dirt in the Everglades.
"This approval represents a major advance," said Stu Appelbaum, the Corps' district deputy for Everglades restoration.
"This is a pretty huge breakthrough," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation.
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