President Clinton and Vice President Gore: Restoring an American Natural Treasure
World's Largest Environmental Restoration Will Restore Natural Flow to Florida Everglades
Monday, December 11, 2000
President Clinton today officially launched a historic restoration of the Florida Everglades, aimed at reviving millions of acres of sawgrass prairies, mangrove and cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, and coral reefs. In signing the Everglades Restoration Act, the President began a 30-year, $7.8 billion effort to restore this natural treasure, an effort that enjoys broad, bipartisan support and has been a major environmental priority for the Administration. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will return a natural flow of water through the Everglades, which has seen over 70 percent of its historic flows diverted to supply water to farms and communities and roughly half of its acres lost to agriculture and development.
Reviving a Natural Treasure, America's "River of Grass"
President Clinton and Vice President Gore have made the restoration of the Florida Everglades a major environmental priority. Today, President Clinton turned that aim into a reality when he signed the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, authorizing the Comprehensive State Everglades Restoration Plan. A broad coalition of national and local environmental, agricultural, business, and citizen groups helped develop the plan, which guides restoration of the Everglades for the next 30 years. The plan seeks to nearly double the amount of fresh water available to South Florida, ensuring clean, plentiful flows for the Everglades and adequate supplies for the region's cities and farms.
Over the past half century, levees and canals built to control floods and deliver water to farms and growing communities have deprived the Everglades of 70 percent of its historic flows. Roughly half of the Everglades has been lost to agriculture and development. Populations of wading birds have plummeted 90 to 95 percent. Scores of species are gone or – like the American crocodile and Florida panther – in danger of extinction. From Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys, South Florida's entire ecosystem is in peril. At the same time, the region's population is projected to double by 2050, and continued environmental decline threatens to undermine the region's thriving tourist economy.
Launching History's Largest Environmental Restoration Effort
The Everglades Restoration Plan represents an historic opportunity to save the Everglades and ensure a sustainable economic future for South Florida. Its principal aim is to capture and clean much of the water that now flows unused to sea and deliver it when and where it is needed most. Key features include:
- raising 20 miles of highway, and removing 240 miles of levees and canals, to help restore natural "sheet flows";
- 181,250 acres of above-ground reservoirs with a capacity of 1.54 million acre-feet;
- 300 wells to store and retrieve water from underground aquifers;
- 35,600 acres of wetlands to naturally filter polluted runoff; and
- reuse of 220 million gallons a day of wastewater.
When completed, the Plan will generate an additional 1.1 million acre-feet of water a year. Eighty percent of the "new" water will be committed to environmental restoration, with the remaining 20 percent ensuring adequate supplies for cities and farms through 2050. Rebuilding the region's water system to more closely mimic nature's design will:
- help restore more than 2.4 million acres of the south Florida ecosystem;
- improve the health of Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the continental United States;
- guarantee increased flows to Everglades National Park; and,
- revive Florida Bay and the coral reefs of the Florida Keys.
Preserving America's Waterways, Estuaries, and Oceans
The Water Resources Development Act of 2000 that the President signed also allows for major efforts to deepen channels into the New York/New Jersey harbor, improve the Puget Sound ecosystem, and restore the estuary of the lower Columbia River. In addition, the bill strengthens the authority of the Corps of Engineers to evaluate water resource needs of watersheds throughout the nation.
The President's action today builds on a remarkable record of coastal and ocean protection. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have taken bold steps to keep our beaches clean, safeguard our coasts from the risks of offshore oil development, and protect dolphins and other marine mammals. To better address the long-term challenges, the President and Vice President launched a national dialogue leading to a comprehensive strategy for strengthening federal ocean policy for the 21st century. And just last week the President established an 84-million acre coral reef reserve – the nation's largest protected area – off Hawaii's northwestern islands.