Water experts call on Scott to finish the work on CERP

OKEECHOBEE — A group of 60 scientists, engineers and water policy experts sent a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott on Jan. 31 urging him to finish the work on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The Florida Senate is currently considering Senate Bill 10, which calls for bonding funding from Florida’s Amendment One to spend $2.4 billion to purchase 60,000 acres of sugar cane farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area and build a reservoir, in order to reduce lake releases to the coastal estuaries during the rainy season.

Opponents of Senate Bill 10 say Everglades restoration would be better served by staying on track with the CERP projects which been in the works for 15 years, and that the proposed reservoir would not significantly reduce lake flows to the east and west.

Speaking for the group of 60 in a cover letter, Henry Dean, former executive director of the South Florida Water Management District and the St. Johns River Water Management District, urged the governor to support completion of the original CERP projects.

“Water is Florida’s most precious resource and the state’s largest freshwater system — which spans from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades — deserves a thoughtful, comprehensive solution in addressing water quality and quantity issues,” he wrote. “The solution has already been developed with input from some of the most knowledgeable scientists, engineers and water quality experts in the world.

“For this reason, dozens of water policy experts and scientists across the State of Florida have come together in support of finishing the work that was agreed upon more than 15 years ago.

He said their recommendation is to complete the authorized projects that are part of the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS) including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), Herbert Hoover Dike repairs, Florida’s Restoration Strategies and the Kissimmee River basin restoration.

“This plan is codified in the IDS, which is a comprehensive restoration ‘blueprint’ of construction projects linked to Everglades’ restoration and the management of the Lake Okeechobee system. The goal is to provide the optimum science-based sequencing of key restoration projects to deliver maximum benefits as early as possible,” Mr. Dean wrote.

“Well-established science should not be disregarded. Deviating from this scientifically-based scheduled for project development and implementation will cause significant delays and compromise the potential for moving toward restoration,” he wrote.

“Enclosed you will find the signatures of 60 water experts who have direct involvement, ranging more than 30 years, in projects regarding restoration in the Everglades bionetwork from St. Johns County, the South Florida Water Management District and Water Resources Advisory Commission, and dozens of professional engineers, marine biologists and technical consultants who support the existing plan.”

The document titled, Letter from 60 water policy experts across Florida, urging support of the scientific consensus plan for achieving results in Everglades restoration, states;

“As a scientist, engineer or water policy expert, I strongly support the path to restoration in the consensus plan of federal and state agencies as the best option for achieving the environmental goals for the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the Coastal Estuaries.

“It has now been more than 15 years since bipartisan Congressional approval of the comprehensive plan to restore the Everglades. In November 2015, all state and federal agencies involved in Everglades restoration produced a consensus implementation strategy providing a detailed and defensible project schedule that considered natural system priorities, inter-project dependencies, and importantly, a long term financial projection that state and federal legislators can use as a road map to keep this colossal project on track. The plans are in place, the funding has been identified and the technical feasibility documented. Adhering to this program will provide certainty that restoration of the Everglades/Lake Okeechobee ecosystem, including the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, will be achieved at the earliest possible date.”

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The letter is signed by Henry Dean, Anthony Federico, Beth Ross, Bill Baker, Bill DeBusk, Bob Brown, Bradley Waller, Brian Roy, Chuck Aller, Church Roberts, Dave Brown, Del Bottcher, Doug Bournique, Ed Barber, Ed Dickey, Ed Weinberg, Ernie Barnett, Frank Nearhoof, Gary Ritter, Greg Munson, Herschel Vineyard, Irene Kennedy Quincey, James Guida, James Humble, Jeff Rosenfeld, Jeff Sumner, Jim Labowski, John Juston, Jushua Kellam, Lee “Chip” Merriam, Leslie Bromwell, Lorisa Asmussen, Luna Phillips, Matt Fisher, Mike Collins, Miya Burt-Stweart, Nick Gutierrez, Nyla Pipes, Rich Budell, Russell Fryenborg, Sharton Trost, Tom DeBusk, Tom MacVicar, Tommy Strowd, Melissa Meeker, Forrest Dierberg, Hugh English, Timothy Lang, Samira Daroub, Kerry Kates, Forrest Izuno, Doug Mann, Trudi Williams, Karson Turner, David Childs, Dongwei Zhu, Newton Cook, Harry Raucher, Harkley Thorton and Craig Varn.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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