, 2000

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JUNE 30, 1999  10:03 AM
Sierra Club
Allen Mattison, 202-675-7903
Sierra Club Applauds Efforts To Save Everglades, But Says Engineering Alone Won't Do The Job
WASHINGTON - June 30 - By undertaking the job of restoring the Florida Everglades, the Administration has begun the process of protecting one of America's greatest national treasures. The Administration put Everglades protection on the national agenda and demanded urgent action. Most notably, Vice President Gore's leadership has been the catalyst driving efforts to save this "river of grass," for which we are deeply grateful.

By establishing a scientific review panel -- and by granting it the power to inject new science into the restoration plan as new data emerges -- the Administration took a visionary step toward successfully saving the Everglades. We believe this process is the right way to move ahead, because it will establish a scientific basis, build public support and secure the financial resources for saving the Everglades.

Engineering alone won't save the Everglades -- the Everglades need space, land and natural processes. Without more space, and with barriers blocking the system's natural processes, the Everglades will die.

The Army Corps of Engineers' Everglades Restudy offers some clear benefits to the Everglades, but still has some serious problems which need to be addressed.

Key benefits of the plan are that it seeks to save the billions of gallons of fresh water lost to the sea each day to provide seasonal water to the Everglades. It calls for removing many of the canals that block the flow of water through the Everglades to Florida Bay. And it will provide clean water for Everglades National Park.

However, the Army Corps of Engineers' Everglades Restudy does not take enough of the actions needed to save the Everglades. This plan should be seen as a starting point, not a final product. Sierra Club is confident the Administration will build on this plan to create a process that gives our children a chance to know a healthy Everglades.

We strongly question some aspects of the Corps' Restudy. First, simply purchasing the 60,000 acres of sugar-farm land already committed is not enough -- another 140,000 acres are needed to provide more storage at the top of the Everglades. In addition, unless we protect the Everglades from the sprawl rapidly marching inland from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, its problems will only continue.

Another weakness is the plan's heavy reliance on an untested technology called Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) to store water 1,000 feet underground for use when needed. The Corps plans to build 333 of these controversial wells, which could greatly damage Florida's ground water supply. This experimental scheme consumes approximately a quarter of the plan's $7.8 billion budget.

Finally, the plan needs to scale back the use of giant rock quarries near Miami as reservoirs. One billion dollars of the plan is allocated for lining these quarries to create an impermeable, artificial "curtain-wall" around them. This aspect of the plan threatens to eliminate up to 20,000 acres of wetlands.

Luckily, these problems can be fixed. By giving the scientific review panel the power to examine whether the ASRs work, and whether they are cost-effective, the Administration has again shown its vision. Just as the Everglades filters impurities from the water, the panel will screen out bad ideas, increasing the chances of creating a process that succeeds in saving the Everglades.


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