Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board voted to advance an Everglades restoration project and remove 5.5 miles of Old Tamiami Trail roadbed in Miami-Dade County.
“Removing the roadbed improves the volume of water flowing south through the Everglades into Everglades National Park,” the governor’s office noted. Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the required permit for the project.
The project is a component of the larger Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), which also includes the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project. CEPP will help deliver additional freshwater from Lake Okeechobee south to Water Conservation Area 3, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. The project is in Miami-Dade County south of U.S. 41 between the L-67 Extension Canal and Shark Valley Loop Road.
“Elevating Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), removing roadbed, and restoring the historic sheet flow of water south are all part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ Everglades restoration priorities,” the governor’s office insisted.
“We are doing everything we can to expedite Everglades restoration,” said DeSantis. “This is another big step forward to send more water south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, where it is desperately needed. By removing this old roadbed, we are helping restore the natural sheet flow of water and protect important wetland habitats. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and South Florida Water Management District are working at my direction to continue expediting critical Everglades and water quality projects for the benefit of both people and the environment.”
“Governor DeSantis recognizes that the key to Everglades restoration is sending more water south, and I applaud his efforts to make Everglades restoration and water quality top priorities of his administration,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss. “We are following the governor’s lead by taking actions that will get this project done and restore the natural flow of water south.”
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, DEP and the South Florida Water Management District continue to make great strides in advancing critical Everglades restoration efforts like the Old Tamiami Roadbed Removal Project,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Yesterday’s vote marks the next step for this important project that will move water south, restoring the ecology of this region and protecting Florida Bay, while also reducing harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”
“Yesterday’s vote by the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board represents a key step toward removing the Old Tamiami Trail-an unused relic of the past,” said Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation. “Removing this old road will facilitate flows into Everglades National Park and allow natural habitat within this Wetland of International Importance to re-establish. We thank Governor DeSantis for his leadership in expediting Everglades restoration and completing projects like this that have been under consideration for decades.”
“This is a great step to increase freshwater flows south. We applaud Governor DeSantis and the District for their speedy action to set the Central Everglades Planning Project into motion. Accelerated and full implementation of CEPP is critical to restore the historic flow of water through Everglades National Park and rehydrate Florida Bay,” said Celeste De Palma, the director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida. “Yesterday’s approval marks the first in a series of steps needed to see species like the iconic Roseate Spoonbills nesting in high numbers along the Bay once again. We hope to see more CEPP groundbreakings in 2020.”
“I commend Governor DeSantis and DEP for approving the permit that allows this project to proceed and yesterday, the District’s Board action gets the wheels in motion to once and for all remove this impediment to important water flows needed into the park,” said Superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks Pedro Ramos. “This is great news for Everglades National Park.”
“National Parks Conservation Association applauds Governor Ron DeSantis and the South Florida Water Management District for taking this significant, tangible step toward restoring America’s Everglades,” said Senior Everglades Program Manager of National Parks Conservation Association Cara Capp. “Removing the old roadbed along Tamiami Trail will deliver more freshwater to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, and is one of the final results of 30 years of hard work by local communities, state, and federal leaders. We look forward to more water flowing unencumbered under Tamiami Trail into Everglades National Park, and greater access to clean drinking water for South Florida families.”
Old Tamiami Trail is a historic highway that was built across the Everglades to connect Tampa and Miami in the early 1900s. Its construction disrupted the natural sheet flow of water south through the Everglades. By removing the roadbed, the project will help restore the ecologically important historic sheet flow of water south through the Everglades. The roadbed removal is expected to increase the flow of clean freshwater into the Northeast Shark River Slough area of the park by more than 220 billion gallons per year. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.
The Tamiami Trail Projects, C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area, Caloosahatchee Reservoir and other critical Everglades restoration projects were identified by DeSantis in his “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment” Executive Order to be expedited and completed as quickly as possible. SFWMD is working with its partners including DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite planning, permitting, design and construction of these important projects.