Palmetto Bay, Fla. (June 3, 2019) — Since 1928, the natural southerly flow of water into the Everglades has been bottlenecked by the Tamiami Trail, U.S. Route 41, resulting in excessive drying and increased fire in the Everglades and massive seagrass die-offs in Florida Bay. While construction of two massive elevated bridges has improved the situation significantly, there is one last phase of road modifications necessary to accommodate the restoration of fresh water flows to levels envisioned in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
Thanks to a $60 million grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation to the National Park Service (along with $40 million included in the budget recently passed by the Florida legislature) the remaining 6.5 miles of roadway between the two bridges will now be elevated.
“The water crisis facing the Everglades is really two-fold,” explained Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
“At the northern end of the Everglades, excess water flowing into Lake Okeechobee has forced massive discharges of algae-causing water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Meanwhile, in the southern Everglades, the lack of fresh water impacts wildlife and destroys critical habitat. In Florida Bay, it is ruining the delicate saltwater balance, killing seagrass habitat needed to support world-class recreational fishing in the Florida Keys.”
The 6.5-mile Tamiami Trail Modification Next Step Phase II project, Eikenberg said, “will open up the bottleneck, allowing the maximum amount of clean water into Everglades National Park.”
Eikenberg said the funds will be used to elevate the remaining road and install six sets of massive concrete culverts between the new bridges.
“This $100 million project is an essential and significant step in the restoration of America’s Everglades and returning the natural flow of fresh water to Everglades Natural Park,” Eikenberg wrote in an April 29 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Funding for the project is part of the Department’s Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects grant program, Eikenberg noted.