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Dawn Shirreffs: Everglades restoration cannot wait

Everglades restoration efforts, the future of Floridians’ drinking water, and the fate of endangered species like the Florida Panther lie in the hands of the South Florida Water Management District this month. SFWMD must act now and affirm its commitment as a critical local sponsor for the Central Everglades Planning Project during its June 13 governing board meeting to ensure CEPP is included with the other projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan set for congressional authorization. It has been a monumental effort to execute this project with broad stakeholder support, and Everglades restoration can’t wait.

In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences pointed to the lack of progress on restoration affecting the central and southern core of the Everglades’ ecosystem including Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Despite approval of the CERP in 2000, lack of projects that could increase freshwater deliveries continued to erode conditions, threatening increased wildfires and the extinction of endangered species. In response, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launched the pilot project known as the Central Everglades Planning Project to help expedite planning and minimize delays.

Since its November 2011 launch, the CEPP-expedited process has received accolades from stakeholders throughout Florida. Recognizing the devastating impacts of delay, PresidentObama, in February, included CEPP on his ‘We Can’t Wait’ Initiative recognizing threats to the Everglades and the potential for this project to serve as a model for restoration efforts across the nation.

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