National

More research on Everglades projects ahead

Bulldozers won't be breaking ground this year on a Tamiami Trail bridge the Bush administration called its top priority for reviving the struggling Everglades.

Instead, two White House aides will visit Everglades National Park on Friday to announce a study of additional key projects that will be needed when -- or perhaps ''if'' is the more appropriate word -- the historic road that has bottled up the River of Grass is finally overhauled.

A federal judge a month ago halted plans for a one-mile bridge after the Miccosukee Tribe sued -- the lastest delay for a project Congress first approved 20 years ago to improve water flows to the parched park.

''It's a disappointment because we are trying to get these projects done,'' said Rock Salt of the South Florida Ecosystems Restoration Task Force.

Tribe attorney Dexter Lehtinen said the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior should blame themselves for failing to begin the $225 million bridge this year, a pledge the federal agencies made at a conference of environmentalists in January. The Miccosukee argue a $17 million plan to clean out existing culverts is a cheaper, faster way to get the park more water and lower high waters damaging wildlife and tribal lands north of the Trail.

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