CEO Testifies in Congress on Crucial Restoration Efforts
WASHINGTON (June 7) – The Everglades Foundation CEO, Eric Eikenberg, provided testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the importance of Everglades restoration to protect Florida’s clean-water economy, secure drinking water for millions and build coastal resiliency.
This committee, which has oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program in Everglades restoration, also oversees the important Water Resources Development Act legislation each congress.
During the hearing, Eikenberg stressed how recent significant federal and state investment in restoration has created a palpable sense of momentum and progress on the ground. He noted the crucial importance of maintaining this momentum with continued bipartisan federal support.
Among the many restoration projects that have been completed or started in just these past four years include
Completion of the Kissimmee River restoration;
Completion of repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike;
Construction of bridges along Tamiami Trail;
Completion of the C-44 reservoir east of Lake Okeechobee in Martin County; and
Restoration of a 55,000-acre habitat restoration project in the Picayune Strand east of Naples; and
Groundbreaking of the 10,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, the key component of Everglades restoration.
“These and other projects confirm that restoration works, and I cannot overstate the benefits,” Eikenberg told the Senators.
“We are already seeing habitats reestablished in areas of Everglades National Park that, just five years ago, were parched by drought for half the year,” he observed.
The fortified Hoover Dike, in conjunction with the EAA Reservoir and other projects being built, will reduce algae-causing toxic discharges by more than 55 percent, Eikenberg said, noting that perennial algal blooms along both of Florida’s coasts have devastated water-based tourism.
Importantly, he said, the increased freshwater flow will help restore the vital salinity balance in Florida Bay that has made it “the fishing capital of the world.” The bay currently suffers from too much saltwater that has led to massive seagrass die-offs which severely harm the ecosystem.
The restored Everglades, Eikenberg predicted, will provide a natural defense against saltwater intrusion due to rising sea levels, while the properly hydrated Everglades peat soils will serve as a massive “carbon bank” removing carbon from the atmosphere.
“We are at a critical juncture on Everglades restoration, and the stakes are high” Eikenberg testified. “On behalf of the anglers, the realtors, the fishing guides, the business owners and the millions who depend on a restored Everglades – please, do not stop now.”