A massive construction project in the southern U.S. state of Florida
will try to breathe life back into the state's wetlands called the Everglades.
Large parts of Florida's ecosystem have dried up following decades of flood
control measures. As Steve Mort reports, the project includes the world's
largest above ground, man-made reservoir and the famous Everglades National
way to get around this part of Florida is by boat. The Kissimmee River flood basin is part of a 47,000 square
kilometer ecosystem that includes the Everglades, the largest subtropical
wilderness in the United States.
Wilburn leads the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' effort to restore the
basin. He says channels built during
the 1960s and early '70s to prevent flooding caused serious damage to the
ecology of the Everglades and southern Florida's wetlands.
"What that has
done is, it has changed the flood basin. It has taken the flood basin and
actually dried it up," Wilburn said.
channels drained two-thirds of the flood basin. So in 1992, the U.S. Congress approved work, like this dam, to
restore more than a hundred square kilometers of flood basin.
Kissimmee River basin is supposed to be fully restored by 2012 so there's a lot
to do in the next four years," Wilburn explained.
includes restoring almost 70 kilometers of meandering river.
south in Florida's vast sugar cane fields, restoration efforts have been given
a boost with a tentative $1.75 billion agreement between America's largest
sugar cane producer and the state of Florida.
Under the deal,
which is still being negotiated, U.S. Sugar would halt operations in about six
years time and sell nearly 780 square kilometers of sugar cane fields to make
way for a network of reservoirs and marshes to channel water back into the
the recent U.S. Sugar announcement, an enormous reservoir was already being
say it's too early to tell how a deal with U.S. Sugar might impact plans for
the reservoir. It would be used to restore almost a million hectares of
Everglades' ecosystem by collecting almost six billion liters of water per
day, currently channeled out to sea.
heads the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. It coordinates the work of agencies working
"We have got to make sure we've got a place to store the water, that we
can clean the water, and that we can ensure that the flood protection that is
necessary to protect the seven million people that surround the remaining
Everglades is all in place," May said.
is part of an $8 billion comprehensive restoration plan for the
environmental group has filed a lawsuit, and work on the reservoir has been
is an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The council wants assurances that the
reservoir will be used mostly to restore the Everglades, not for development.
"While the title is Everglades restoration, there is a very strong set of
interests in Florida that want many of these projects to also be used for water
supply,” Sewell said. “They're expecting a 30 percent increase in water demand
over the next 20 years."
experts say recent growth in this part of the United States means it will be
impossible to fully restore the Everglades to their former glory. But the
program aims to try.