THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT GORE TO UNVEIL COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO RESTORE FLORIDA EVERGLADES $7.8 Billion Blueprint Would Increase Freshwater Flows to Environment, Cities, Farms
Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore will present to Congress tomorrow a comprehensive blueprint for rebuilding freshwater supplies in South Florida, a central feature of the Administration's long-term strategy for restoring the Everglades.
The $7.8 billion plan calls for a series of water system improvements over 20 years to capture much of the fresh water that now flows unused to the ocean and deliver it when and where it is needed. Eighty percent of the "new" water would be devoted to environmental restoration in and around the Everglades, with the rest ensuring adequate supplies for cities and agriculture through 2050.
"Today, we take the most critical step yet to restore the Everglades, one of America's true natural treasures," Vice President Gore said. "Clean, fresh water is the key, and our plan ensures plenty of it -- both for the Everglades, and for the families and farmers of South Florida."
The Vice President will present the plan at an event on Capitol Hill, where he is to be joined by Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Senator Connie Mack (R-Fla.), and other members of the Florida congressional delegation; Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner, and other Administration officials; and David Struhs, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study, or Comprehensive Plan, is the lynchpin of the long-term Everglades restoration strategy announced by the Vice President in February 1996. Other elements include strategic land acquisitions, accelerated research and restoration projects, improved water quality protections, and strengthened partnerships with state, tribal, and local governments.
"Working closely with the people of Florida, we have made great strides in restoring this incomparable landscape," the Vice President said. "But if future generations are to know the Everglades as our predecessors did, we must go the next step and restore the precious flows that are its very lifeblood."
The Comprehensive Plan proposes major modifications to the Central and Southern Florida Project, a network of canals and levees built 50 years ago to reduce flooding and deliver water to farms and growing communities. While the Project helped sustain South Florida through a period of enormous growth, it diverted much of the water that historically flowed to the Everglades. Today, cities and farms face periodic water shortages as demand outstrips supply, and with the region's population projected to double by 2050, worsening shortages threaten its economic future.
By creating new water storage areas above and below ground, the Comprehensive Plan will capture an additional 1.1 million acre-feet of water a year, nearly doubling the amount of freshwater available in South Florida. Rebuilding wetlands will help filter polluted runoff, and the removal of 240 miles of levees and canals will help recreate the north-to-south "sheet flows" that historically sustained the Everglades.
The Comprehensive Plan was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District in collaboration with more than 30 other agencies. Under the Plan, construction costs are to be shared equally by the federal and state governments. Later this year, the Administration will propose legislation to be incorporated into the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 to approve the Plan and authorize an initial round of projects with an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.
"Saving the Everglades is a national priority, and I am confident that Congress will join us in this historic effort," said the Vice President. "Never before have we worked on such a grand scale to restore our environment. Working together, we can ensure not only a healthy Everglades, but a strong, sustainable economy for generations to come."
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