Another Project Breaks Ground in Ongoing Everglades Restoration Mission
Nov 19, 2023
Another piece in the largest environmental restoration project in the world came together Monday morning in western Miami-Dade County.
After decades of neglect and threatening urban development, many environmentalists are encouraged by consistent efforts to restore the Everglades.
The largest rock chain trencher in the world came to South Florida on Monday. The 500,000-pound machine appears like a giant chainsaw that will slice through the ground 60 feet deep while work crews come in afterward with concrete and other materials.
The finished project will be an underground seepage wall built separating water for wildlife and human development.
The South Florida Water Management District and the United States Army Corps of Engineers organized the groundbreaking ceremony. The Water Seepage Barrier Wall Project is a part of the larger Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). The 2.3-mile Phase I was finished three months ago. This is Phase II and will add another five miles to the wall.
“To be able to have economic growth - which is important - but at the same time, protect our natural resources,” said Alligator Ron Bergeron, a conservationist and governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District.
The stakes are high. The Everglades provide water to 8 million people in South Florida, according to Zoo Miami communication director Ron Magill.
“We’re making big progress,” Magill said. “I’m proud to say that because a few decades ago, the Everglades were heading downhill, spiraling downhill.”
The natural flow of water starts at Lake Okeechobee and goes south to the Florida Bay. Over the years, urban development sucked up much of that water, choking off parts of the Everglades while mixing fresh water with runoff and chemicals.
Seepage walls are part of a complex system that allows both humans and wildlife to coexist.
“Helps keep water in the Everglades where it belongs, fresh water. While avoiding contaminated water getting to the system. So, it maintains water within the park and it’s able to guide water to certain areas when it’s needed,” Magill said.
The federal government recently earmarked more than $1 billion dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure package for the many restoration projects. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has successfully fought for a historic amount of state funding for similar projects.
Throughout much of the 1900s, Everglades restoration did not keep up with the pace of Florida’s growing development. State and federal officials are planning on managing a large number of projects which could total more than $20 billion in the years ahead.
Monday’s announcement is a part of that huge undertaking. These specific seepage walls are paid for with more than $50 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“We want more. The fact is we want more. The fact is there’s a lot of work ahead of us still,” said Pedro Ramos, Superintendent for the Everglades National Park.
Over the years some of these projects go over budget and take longer than expected. However, the environmental community is by and large happy about the direction the projects are headed.