Floridians are on the verge of another bold step toward restoration progress in the Northern Everglades. Tomorrow the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board will vote on whether to move forward with eight public/private partnership projects to store water in the Northern Everglades. Audubon is a strong advocate for these projects, known as dispersed water management (DWM), and has been successful in urging the SFWMD to increase funding and resources for this innovative program.
These projects provide benefits for water storage and water quality in a fraction of the time required for larger public projects to operate. It may take over a decade to construct a reservoir or stormwater treatment area, but some of the DWM projects can be finished within a number of years. For example, the Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project (FRESP), a series of eight pilot projects to store and clean water on private lands, was initiated in 2005. Today the pilot projects are showing promising results for water quality and water storage north of Lake Okeechobee.
DWM is also very cost effective. For comparison, the SFWMD Lakeside Ranch STA is a 2,500 acre project. The construction cost is $76 million plus long term operating expenses. In contrast, the Lykes Nicodemus Slough Dispersed Water Management Project is 800% larger than Lakeside Ranch. Its total cost is $28 million, including all construction, lease, and operation expenses. While the projects to be voted on tomorrow are smaller than the Nicodemus Slough project, they still yield the same impressive ratio of low cost for bold results.
Pursuing DWM projects in the Northern Everglades helps build partnerships and lasting relationships with landowners. As we move ahead with Everglades restoration in the Northern Everglades, garnering support from people who share an appreciation for the land is a bold step toward success. Audubon of Florida staff recently visited the Rafter T Ranch, one of the FRESP projects in Sebring. It was clear that the Wohl family’s love for their land over generations goes hand in hand with a strong commitment to preservation.
Tomorrow Audubon of Florida will urge the SFWMD Governing Board to support progress in the Northern Everglades and vote for these eight projects to move forward. Spread the word about these exciting steps toward progress.