Commentary: Stimulus funds will help Everglades

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

By most measures, $20 billion is jaw-dropping sum, but it's a drop in the bucket in the big picture funding cost of the entire Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Nevertheless, the $279 million in federal funds earmarked largely for Glades restoration projects mark the single-largest amount that Congress and the White House have allocated since the joint federal-state project was approved in 2000. It's a start, finally.

The money comes from two sources. There is $183 million in a spending bill approved by Congress last month and $96 million from the federal-stimulus package for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work. Together, these funds will get stalled projects started, such as restoring wetlands in the 55,000-acre Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida and building a reservoir to improve the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. There also is funding for repairs on Lake Okeechobee's dike and an upgrading of the Tamiami Trail, though not enough to elevate the road, which is the best solution to impairment of sheet flow.

There also is $25 million to help Monroe County replace its antiquated cesspool and septic tanks with a central-sewage system. Stimulus money will help fund restoration work on Virginia Key and an environmental survey on deepening Port Everglades, among others.

None are glitzy projects, but they will provide engineers, scientists, construction companies and other professionals with jobs. The results will improve Florida's chances of preserving and protecting our natural legacy. Who knows? Maybe Congress and the White House will get in the habit of sending dollars for Everglades cleanup. That would be most welcome because, so far, the state has outspent the feds six to one in CERP funding.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.