Everglades restoration project gets federal aid

The state and the federal governments Thursday approved a crucial contract that promises to deliver a much-needed infusion of federal dollars to the Everglades.

The agreement resolved years of dispute over how to split a staggering Everglades restoration bill projected to top $22 billion and clears the way for long-stalled construction to quickly, and finally, begin -- starting with a project to turn a failed Southwest Florida subdivision back into wetlands.

The South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally signed a document called the ``master agreement,'' which spells out in arcane detail how each side will share costs and duties for 60-plus projects intended to restore the natural flow to the River of Grass,

Both sides hailed the contract as a major breakthrough that will move the joint restoration effort, which Congress approved in 2000, from talk to action.

``This is not just a boring, silly administrative milestone. This is a psychological milestone,'' said Shannon Estenoz, a district governing board member. ``This is the place where we pick up speed. I want to get out my boots and hard hat and start attending ground-breakings.''

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