Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Although the progress of environmental restoration projects in the Florida Everglades remains slow overall, there have been improvements in the pace of restoration and in the relationship between the federal and state partners over the last two years. However, the importance of several challenges related to water quantity and quality have become clear, highlighting the difficulty in achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. Rigorous scientific analyses of the tradeoffs between water quality and quantity and between the hydrologic requirements of Everglades features and species are needed to inform future prioritization and funding decisions.

Key Messages

  • Attaining water quality goals throughout the Everglades system is likely to be very costly and take several decades of continued commitment to a systemwide, integrated planning and design effort that simultaneously addresses source controls, storage, and treatment over a range of time scales. The South Florida Water Management District should conduct a comprehensive scientific, technical, and cost effectiveness analysis to examine the potential short and longer-term restoration alternatives and to optimize restoration outcomes given state and federal financial constraints.
  • In the past two years the restoration program has made tangible progress, and the pace of restoration and the relationship between the federal and state partners has improved. Four Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects, four pilot projects, and several non- Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects are under construction, notably a Tamiami Trail bridge. Continued federal commitment is especially important at this time.
  • Maintaining political and public support for Everglades restoration will be critical to future Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan progress. Multiple decades of commitment will be needed to complete the Restoration Plan. Sustaining this commitment will be a continuing challenge that will require demonstration of significant public and environmental benefits as evidenced through the Restoration Plan's monitoring and assessment program.
  • Natural system restoration progress from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, however, remains slow, and this committee reaffirms its predecessor's conclusions (NRC 2008) that continued declines of some aspects of the ecosystem make accelerated progress in Everglades restoration even more important.
  • Nearly all Everglades restoration projects carry tradeoffs. Understanding the tradeoffs from a whole ecosystem perspective is critical to decision-making. Improved models and decision tools are needed to help policy makers weigh the effects of restoration projects on multiple ecosystem components, such as habitat conditions, threatened species, and critical ecosystem processes and features such as tree islands, and this information should be clearly communicated to planners and stakeholders.
  • Rigorous research, analysis, and modeling are needed to develop improved best management practices and to examine the long-term sustainability and performance of stormwater treatment areas to meet water-quality goals.
  • Several important challenges related to water quality and water quantity have become clear over the past two years, highlighting the difficulty of simultaneously achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. For example, restoring hydrologic conditions while providing adequate storage and meeting water-quality goals is a challenge.
  • The effectiveness of current mechanisms of linking science to decision making has come under question and should be examined by Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan leadership. Strong communication between scientists and decision makers is critically important to reach restoration goals by ensuring that policy decisions are fully informed by scientific knowledge.