Everglades Coalition Conference
January 10th-13th, 2013
The 28th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference kicked off on Thursday, January 10th in Coral Gables. The conference is the largest annual forum for discussion of Everglades conservation and restoration topics.
“The Everglades Foundation was pleased to host the 28th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference at the Biltmore Hotel. It was a wonderful opportunity to gather with advocates and supporters of America’s Everglades to see and hear of the successes that had been accomplished, to understand and discuss the challenges and opportunities that are before us, as well as strategize on how to implement these goals in both the short term and the long term,” said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO.
Plenary and breakout sessions covered a range of topics and prompted lively discussion at the Everglades Coalition Conference (affectionately referred to as #EVCO2013 on Twitter). Sessions on restoring public lands, climate change, water quality, wildlife management and a host of other topics demonstrated how the importance of maintaining a healthy Everglades ecosystem has impacts beyond Florida.
The conference began with an Everglades 101 discussion, detailing the history of the ecosystem by conservationists and scientists who have come to know it well. Everglades Foundation Board Member and Vice Chair, Mary Barley, participated on the panel with fellow panelists Dr. Joan Browder of NOAA, Representative Pat Rooney Jr. (R-West Palm Beach), and Kathy Aterno of Clean Water Action.
Everglades Foundation scientists Dr. Tom Van Lent and Dr. Stephen Davis also spoke on panels during the conference; discussing topics such as the state and federal governments’ recent agreement on a water quality plan for Florida’s water bodies, the economics of Everglades restoration, and the crucial next steps of Everglades restoration, with a focus on the expedited planning effort known as the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).
A separate but historic milestone also occurred in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the conference: the dedication and ribbon cutting of the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project. The South Florida Water Management District held the event on Friday, January 11th, at the site of the S-199 Pump Station, about a mile north of the main entrance to Everglades National Park.
Everglades Foundation Senior Scientist, Dr. Tom Van Lent cited the project as “the first step towards restoring Florida Bay.” It is also the first Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) project to be completed.
“The purpose of the project is to keep the water that’s in Everglades National Park flowing towards Florida Bay in the park itself, rather than being drained off by the C-111 Canal,” Van Lent explained, “we must next identify a source of new water for Florida Bay—we’re hoping that the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will identify a new source of water that comes into Everglades National Park and replenishes the freshwater supply of Florida Bay.”
A bi-partisan issue
There was an excellent turnout at the Everglades Coalition Conference from state and federal policymakers and key players in Everglades restoration, underscoring the fact that Everglades restoration is a wholly bi-partisan issue.
“The Everglades Coalition Conference is a great chance to visit with our allies and with the agencies involved in Everglades restoration projects, as well as those who are pursuing various funding opportunities at the federal level, such as our friends at the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior, and at the state level, agencies like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO.
Attendees at the conference heard from Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Congressman Patrick Murphy, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Congressman Joe Garcia, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Senator Joe Negron and Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, among many other special guest speakers.
“That’s one of the best things about these meetings—they allow all of these groups to come together and really chart the course for what’s important as we move forward,” Eikenberg said.