Beach Post Editorial
November 30, 2007
President Bush and years of an uncooperative Congress. Everglades restoration is at a standstill,
ready to become the centerpiece of the president's harmful environmental
Bush was there for the grip-and-grin photos when brother Jeb
was running for governor, promising full federal cooperation. But from the
start, the federal government has failed to do its part in what was supposed to
be a 50-50 restoration partnership. The president's staff and then-Gov. Bush
dealt harshly with both champions and critics of the restoration.
2001, then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton closed a West Palm Beach restoration office and
reassigned Michael Davis, who had helped create the bipartisan plan to fix the Everglades. In 2003, the South Florida
Water Management District demoted chief environmental scientist Lou Toth, who told The Washington Post that the
restoration plan relies too heavily on engineering, rather than natural
solutions. This month, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who
heads the EPA's South Florida office, Richard Harvey, was removed from the Everglades project after he voiced
concerns about a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to send Lake Okeechobee's polluted waters into Biscayne National Park. Other experts also have been
dumped from the restoration project.
are more problems. Congress finally passed the first Water Resources bill in
seven years, authorizing money for two major Everglades projects, the Indian River
Lagoon restoration and Picayune Strand. But authorization is not appropriation,
and actually getting Congress to provide cash could take another two years.
good news, water district Director Carol Wehle said,
is that the state stepped into the void the feds left. The state bought land
and accelerated design and construction of projects. Now, the state is ready to
start building, but it needs money. Will the federal government ever provide
its fair share? Ms. Wehle said the state might have
to start asking where it will find new sources of money, beyond ad valorem taxes, if it can't rely on the feds.
addition, the corps still is testing aquifer storage and recovery wells, once
envisioned as a vital part of restoration, with plans for more than 300 wells
to store excess water around Lake Okeechobee. Now, the state has a new plan
for holding water on public and private lands north of the lake if studies show
the wells are too expensive or ineffective.
district board Chairman Eric Buermann told The
Associated Press that he wonders whether Everglades restoration "ever will be
done." It's a valid concern - and one that probably won't have a
satisfactory answer until Mr. Bush is out of office and a more cooperative
staff and Congress are in place.