CEPP=Central Everglades Planning Project, 2014,( contains elements of CERP); CERP=Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan of 2000.
To every action, there is a reaction, and in the case of the ACOE refusing to sign off on CEPP, the reaction here in Martin, St Lucie, and Lee County across the state certainly will not be “good.”
Mind you there is a Jacksonville ACOE, who works with “us” and then the ACOE in DC. They are the same but different…
Let’s start at somewhat of the beginning so we can get a grip on this always terribly confusing, multi-layered attempt to fix our estuaries and restore the Everglades.
Around 2000, long before I was involved with the River Movement directly, a group of Florida stakeholders, including environmentalists, the agriculture industry, tribes, utilities, users, and government agencies miraculously agreed on something called CERP, or the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This plan consisted of at least 68 projects to “fix the Everglades.” It was historical and celebrated by all. Congress approved and eventually appropriated some funds that would be shared in costs with the South Florida Water Management District, (SFWMD) towards “CERP.”
Now, 14 years later, some work has been done, but not one of the 68 projects has been completed.
OK now we move to 2010, 2011… still in the sinkhole of 2008 Great Recession, the SFWMD, the local ACOE Jacksonville team, and the stakeholders decide sitting with “nothing” is not an option and determine to do something unprecedented and “speed things up.” They work like crazy, often being criticized by those same stakeholders, to package some of the CERP ideas into CEPP (the Central Everglades Planning Project) to sell to the DC ACOE and Congress again, in a different form, and get things going.
Although often behind, the Jacksonville ACOE appears to almost meet their deadline of 18 months and finally, two weeks ago the SFWMD is able to sign off on cost sharing (not an easy task and not all supported the move) on the local Jacksonville ACOE completed CEPP project— which of course has to meet every Tom, Dick and Harry regulation you can possibly imagine. A neurotic situation for sure.
So yesterday, Earth Day, the Washington D.C. ACOE office refuses to sign off on CEPP, saying they need more time to review the documents they have had since last August.
As of yet, no official statement has been given, but the local press and the Everglades Foundation’s Eric Eichenberg call the move “a staggering failure of duty and responsibility.” I would imagine the main concern here is that the Water Resources Development Bill (WRDA) that only comes around once every 5-7 years these days, must include CEPP for it to be funded (appropriated) by Congress. Now it seems CEPP will certainly not make the deadline, which is really “now.”
So is there hope? We all know, that “it’s not over until its over,” and until the WRDA is officially closed, perhaps some political miracle could ensue. Is it likely? I would doubt it. But I do not know.
What I do know is that Florida has been really dependent on the Federal Government since 1933 when the Florida Legislature and the people of Florida convinced the US Government to build the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and the ensuing flood control projects over the years to protect the important growing agriculture industry south of the lake and thousands of people who were allowed to build and develop inside the Everglades’ historical flow area, especially south from Palm Beach to Dade counties. At this time there was no thought of the estuaries.
So in many ways we want our cake and to eat it too….”protect us from the waters of Lake O but don’t hurt the estuaries….” Something is going to have to give.
For almost four years, Senator Joe Negron has been pushing for less involvement of the ACOE. Whether one likes Senator Negron or not, I agree with his philosophy. Congress/ the US ACOE is no longer supporting the dredging of our state inlets which they did for almost 100 years, and they most likely not going to support the restoration of the Everglades and the betterment of the estuaries through changing our pluming system and sending more water south. After 14 years of of begging, and celebrating crumbs, you’d think we’d get the message.
Is this the Jacksonville local ACOE’s fault? Not really as the Federal Government is simply terribly dysfunctional so it is hard for the ACOE to do its job, plus they are broke.
In conclusion, yes, we have to finish what’s been started, and I recognize the difficulty of “us” fixing our own problems, however; if we really take a hard look in the mirror, there may not be a choice but to try.
SFWMD/ACOE CEPP: (http://www.evergladesplan.org/pm/projects/proj_51_cepp.aspx)