According to Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the Everglades is an ecosystem in peril. Once it was a vast, free-flowing river of grass extending from the Kissimmee chain of lakes to Florida Bay. Wading and migratory birds were so prolific they darkened the skies. Panthers, manatees and deer were abundant. These subtropical wetlands supported a rich diversity of plants, fish and other animals.
However, people started to affect the Everglades as early as the late 1800s, when primitive canals were dug to begin draining south Florida. These changes continued throughout the 20th century, as more than 1,700 miles of canals and levees vastly changed the landscape, interrupting the Everglades' natural sheetflow and sending valuable freshwater to sea. More than half the Everglades wetlands were lost to development. The Plan was approved in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000. It includes more than 60 elements, will take more than 30 years to construct and the current estimate in Oct 2007 dollars is $9.5 billion for projects. After decades of study and planning the implementation of the restoration of the Everglades has been dealt a serious setback. The South Florida Water Management District has scaled back the deal for a third time What began two years ago as a stunning $1.75 billion purchase of the United States Sugar Corporation and all its assets, including 187,000 acres of land, is now set to close in October at a fraction of its original size, with 26,790 acres being sold for $197 million. It all got started with the desire for a single act that would save one of the world’s most treasured wetlands, along with its endangered plant and animal species. When Gov. Crist, standing at the edge of a man-made wetland in June 2008, announced the proposed deal, he called it “the holy grail” of restoration. And indeed, there was a lot of potential. Scientists have long maintained that there is nothing the Everglades — hurt by more than a century of dredging and development — needs more than space to store and clean water. Ultimately, they left the Everglades with delays in exchange for majestic dreams, now unlikely to be realized. Unfortunately the lack of foresight to invest in restoration may mean much greater expenses for the state of Florida in the future. A Mather Economics study shows that a four-fold return on investment is likely form the restoration project. The growing Florida population is making ever greater demands for fresh water. The prospect of de-salting drinking water looms large in Florida's large urban areas. Nature tourism and waterfront property values are other likely benefits of a larger, more functional ecosystem.